Veteran Indian table tennis player Achanta Sharath Kamal returned to action for the first time after the Coronavirus pandemic during the recently concluded 42-day long senior national camp at the Delhi Public School in Sonepat.
However, a cloud of doubt hangs over Kamal's preparations for the Olympic qualifiers next year after visa issues have temporarily derailed his trip to Germany. The 38-year-old was set to travel to Germany to take part in the Table Tennis Champions League.
The Champions League was supposed to serve as a platform for the top-ranked Indian paddler to get more match-time and get into competitive mode ahead of the important Olympics qualifier. But owing to the Coronavirus pandemic situation, Kamal has now failed to avail his visa for Germany. He, however, has taken the long-route of pushing for the visa with the help of special permission taken from the government and Sports Authority of India.
“There are no tourist visas for Germany at this point of time, so I need special permission and letters from the government and SAI (Sports Authority of India) here. That is taking time,” Sharath Kamal to Hindustan Times.
The Table Tennis Champions League is already underway and is supposed to run till December 18 in a bio bubble environment in Dusseldorf. The league features some of the top players and clubs in Europe.
Kamal plays for Borussia Dusseldorf and his plan was to stay back in Germany after the Champions League and continue training alongside top European paddlers. Kamal’s club-mates include world No. 10 Timo Ball of Germany and Sweden’s 29th-ranked Karlsson Kristian.
Kamal was desperate to play in the league as he believes training with the top players will make a major difference, especially as he had not taken to the court in a long time.
“It makes a major difference. Training in Germany with a lot of their top players is almost like match preparation. I would need that sooner rather than later, because I haven’t played any matches for such a long period of time. And timing has to be right; it can’t be a stop-start process,” Sharath said.
“The foundation work has been done at the camp. I need matches under my belt now. It’s important to assess and have a plan about things you want to work on technically and practically. The practical bit hasn’t been coming at all, because there are no tournaments to play in. That’s why I was looking forward to the Champions League matches,” he added.
The Table Tennis contingent are yet to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Earlier this year, the hopes of both the Men's and Women's Indian teams were dashed as they failed to qualify for the Olympics in the team qualifying event held in Portugal in January 2020.
Their aim will now be to secure the singles and mixed doubles berths still up for grabs. The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) calendar has already resumed post the pandemic. Kamal's next chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics will be early next year.