New Delhi, Dec 14 IANS | 10 months ago

Like most of his predecessors from overseas, India's new table tennis coach Peter Engel is touched by the warmth of the people in the two months that he has been here.


Again, like all coaches before him, he, too says India has an abundance of talent and with improved fitness they can do wonders.

Engel, a German, has not spent enough time with the senior players other than travelling with them for tournaments in Germany and Poland. He has been familiarising himself with the set up and the facilities and spent quite some time at the Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports in Patiala.

"The situation is not bad, there is talent and, most importantly, the players are willing to learn. The biggest area of improvement is fitness, the lack of which makes a player lose his intensity around the table," Engel told IANS.

He soon leaves for home for Christmas and will be back in the first week of January.

"I really want to spend more time with the team, have more camps with them. I only met them in tournaments as most of the boys were playing in Europe.

Engel's take on Indian table tennis is similar to that of his predecessors, Polish Leszek Kucharski and Italian Massimo Costantini.

"As most of the players are not fit enough, they find it hard to maintain the quality of play. They think one good stroke will win them the point. What they need to learn is that they need to hit three or four drives to finish the point. I think it is something they would be able to do with better fitness," said Engel, a former coach with Spain and the Netherlands.

He feels the women have a lot of catching up to do on the international stage.

"Most of the men play in European clubs, so they play and practice with quality players, whereas the women get to practice mostly in camps and that, too, in India. The plan is to have more camps at frequent intervals when I come back."

Engel had spoken highly of top player Sharath Kamal and reigning national champion Soumyajit Ghosh before his arrival. After seeing other players, he is impressed by leftie Sanil Shetty, Madhurika Patkar and Pooja Sahasrabudhe.

"These players have it in them to make good internationally. I must say I found Madhurika and Pooja extremely agile," said Engel who played in the 1975 World Championships in Kolkata.

"Things have changed a lot since, though it is still very different from back home. It is incredible to see disparity between the rich and poor. The traffic is crazy and the three- wheelers are fascinating," concluded the Barcelona-based coach.

(Posted on 14-12-2013)