29 Dec 2018

In India, in the past two decades there has been one sporting personality who has stood above all others and I mean all others; in fact there are those of a rather different mentality to the norm who actually worship the now retired cricketer Sachin Tendulkar.

On Monday 27th August, on social media, he was both quick to congratulate and to encourage the Indian table tennis team; on that day they created history.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

A wait of 60 years had come to an end. Table tennis was first staged at the Asian Games in Tokyo in 1958, in that discipline India had never won a medal; in the Indonesian capital city of Jakarta the wait ended.

After finishing in second place in their initial phase group behind the Chinese Taipei, the no.4 seeds, at the quarter-final stage, they beat Japan, the no.2 seeds to reserve a place in the semi-finals and thus a medal. Selecting Sharath Kamal Archanta, Harmeet Desai and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, it was Sathiyan Gnanasekaran who experienced the full range of emotion.

In the group stage, India had experienced a narrow three-two defeat at the hands of Chinese Taipei, in the second match of the fixture Sathiyan Gnanasekaran had lost to Chuang Chih-Yuan, before in the vital fifth and deciding contest suffering at the hands of Lin Yun-Ju.

Against, Japan, there was a total reversal fortunes, in the opening match of the engagement, he beat Jin Ueda, before in the fourth accounting for Kenta Matsudaira to secure a memorable three matches to one win. The one further win for India was secured by Sharath Kamal Achanta, in the second match of the contest, he defeated Kenta Matsudaira; the one win for Japan was gained by Masaki Yoshida, he overcame Harmeet Desai.

In Jakarta, there were notable names missing from the Japanese selection. There was no Tomokazu Harimoto, Jun Mizutani nor Koki Niwa on duty; to a lesser extent it had been a similar situation earlier in the year in April. At the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, the India selection for the major matches had been the same as in Jakarta; the top seeds, in the final they recorded a three-nil win in opposition to Nigeria’s Bode Abiodun, Olajide Omotayo and Segun Toriola.

Notably, there was no Quadri Aruna in the line-up but there had been no Quadri Aruna in action one round earlier when Nigeria had beaten the English trio of Paul Drinkhall, Liam Pitchford and Sam Walker in a tense three-two victory.

Arguably, matters fell into place for India, opportunities arose but the important factor is those opportunities were seized; moreover Sachin Tendulkar was upstaged!

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