It was under Massimo Costantini that Indian table tennis enjoyed a glorious run.
The Italian tactician was at the helm when the Indian contingent bossed the table tennis event at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, winning medals in every category -- including three gold -- and later went on to replicate a similar show at the Asian Games, pocketing two bronze medals.
It was also during this period that new-age stars like Manika Batra, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Harmeet Desai rose to prominence.
The 62-year-old had to abruptly cut short his stint with the Indian team due to personal reasons post the 2018 Asiad. But Massimo Costantini believes that their recent success has helped change the perception of Indian table tennis among the international community.
“The perception outside India is that Indian paddlers are well respected,” he would tell Sportstar in an interview.
“If Manav (Thakkar), who is so good, can lose 0-3 in the (2020 Oman Open U-21) final to his compatriot Jeet Chandra, what does it say of the level of Indian table tennis? I’m happy to see that they continue to have good results.
“We achieved good results and made them realise that they are world-class players. The results of 2018 gave a huge boost to these players and the new generation are learning and getting inspired by their seniors."
Massimo Costantini bats for international exposure
Having worked in the Indian setup in two phases (his first stint ended in 2010), Massimo Costantini is well aware of the quality that India tends to produce on the TT table.
While the Italian isn’t worried about the quality, he believes that the coaches in India need better exposure if they have to be on par with their international counterparts.
“In terms of knowledge, Indian coaches are very knowledgeable. It has been, time and again, demonstrated by the level of players India is capable of producing,” he said.
“They need more international exposure, need to be sent abroad to see how things work there for themselves,” he added.
Over the past few years, while India has climbed up the international ladder with the men’s team ranked eighth in the world -- their best -- they still stay behind the powerhouses like China, Japan and Germany.
And for Massimo Costantini, who was named the star coach of the year in 2018 by ITTF, the difference lies in how every country approaches player development.
“It’s very simple what they do. The leading countries start working from technique and then move on to abilities,” said the Italian describing what differentiates the best from the rest.
“In a lot of European countries and India, the process is the complete opposite. They start with abilities first and then work on the technique.
“Both are trying to reach the same result, but not everyone gets there because it comes from a certain process.
“It should be about improving the technique and then working on the players’ abilities,” he suggested.