Kumaresan Shamini should be more or less satisfied with what she has achieved on the national stage. She recently won her third Senior National women’s singles table tennis crown, and more importantly got the ‘Poulomi Ghatak’ monkey off her back – something Shamini was as pleased as punch.
“Winning the national women singles table tennis crown obviously means a lot to me. Beating someone like Poulomi Ghatak gives you extra satisfaction – she had beaten me first in the final of the 2010 Senior Nationals in Guwahati and again in the final of the 2012 Senior Nationals in Lucknow,” Shamini says in an exclusive interview.
The Tamil Nadu girl relishes her competitive rivalry with Poulomi, but is quick to point out that all that is confined to the playing arena only.
“We do have a healthy rivalry going but off the table tennis playing arena. When we play for the country, we get along well and try to do well for India.”
Shamini, who won the 2009 and 2011 senior nationals, beating Divya Deshpande of Maharashtra and Mamta Prabhu, feels both have different playing styles.
“Poulomi has a strong forehand and she prefers to wrap up points in a hurry, while I am a kind of player who engages in long rallies.”
India's Shamini Kumaresan returns a shot
The experienced paddler, who was coached by the famous Rao brothers – A. Muralidhara Rao and A. Srinivasa Rao – exactly knows the improvement areas she needs to focus on.
“I need to work on my speed as it plays a big role in deciding the outcome of a match. I also need to sharpen my reflexes.”
The Indian Oil employee stressed on the importance of playing more Pro Tours if Indian table tennis has to go up the ladder.
“There are about 20-22 Pro Tours every year, but we play only 6. We are in dire need of more exposure, as ideally we should be playing at least 10-15 Pro Tours. The central government and the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) are doing all they can. Sponsors must come forward to support our table tennis players.”
A pre-quarterfinalist at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, Shamini says the broadening gap between the Indian players and the powerhouse table tennis nations like China, Korea, and Japan can only be bridged through more intense exposure trips.
“Top players from China, Korea, Japan play more tournaments –they enjoy substantial international exposure – their speed and quick reflexes are their biggest strengths. The more we play with them better we will get.”
Shamini, who holds a world ranking of 242, has set her sights on moving up the ranking ladder.
“I want to break into top-150 or 100 by 2013-end. It’s not going to be easy. Hopefully, I can come anywhere close to 150 or thereabouts.”
The country’s top men singles players – Achantha Sharath Kamal and Souymajit Ghosh – are honing their skills by playing in the club circuit in Europe. Shamini wants to do the same.
“I really feel the need to play in Europe; I’m just looking for an opportunity. Training in Europe will surely help. Even Sharathbhai (Achantha) is trying to help me out. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”
(L-R) Silver medalists Shamini Kumaresan, Mouma Das, Poulomi Ghatak, Prabhu Mamta and Madhurika Suhas Patkar of India show their medals at the table tennis women's team awards ceremony at the Yamuna Sports Complex as part of the XIX Commonwealth Games in New Delhi on October 8, 2010.
(L-R) Silver medalists Shamini Kumaresan, Mouma Das, Poulomi Ghatak, Prabhu Mamta and Madhurika Suhas Patkar of India show their medals at the table tennis women’s team awards ceremony at the Yamuna Sports Complex as part of the XIX Commonwealth Games in New Delhi on October 8, 2010.
The current national women’s champion endorses the idea of women paddlers regularly practising with their male counterparts.
“Women must play with men paddlers. Women paddlers usually have good control but men players have more speed and power something we can learn from them.”
Indian table tennis may not be making a splash in the international arena, but Shamini feels that the future looks bright for India.
“There is a lot of talent coming up – Ankita Das, Mamta Batra and Karnam Spoorthy are all young and can go places,” concluded the paddler, who made her senior debut in 2005.