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Asian Games 2018: After CWG Heroics, Paddler Manika Batra Eyes Good Show at Asiad

What Manika Batra managed to achieve in the Commonwealth Games for Indian table tennis was something unprecedented. She left Gold Coast with four medals overall – the most by an Indian athlete at the games. If she were a country, she would be in the top 20.

Suyash Upadhyaya | News18 Sports

Updated:August 25, 2018, 7:06 PM IST
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What Manika Batra managed to achieve in the Commonwealth Games for Indian table tennis was something unprecedented. She left Gold Coast with four medals overall – the most by an Indian athlete at the games. If she were a country, she would be in the top 20.

The reception which greeted her upon her arrival at the IGI airport in New Delhi post her exploits at the Commonwealth Games was one that is usually reserved for cricket or tennis stars. It was telling of the fact that if one brings laurels to the country, specially in a sport like Table Tennis which does not have a traditional history of success, you will get recognized.

But at the 2018 Asian Games, the 23 year old who had dropped out of college to pursue her dream of becoming a professional table tennis player is not banking on her achievements at the Commonwealth Games. In fact, she does not even like to think about them to derive confidence ahead of facing what will be a tough field in Jakarta and Palembang.

The reason? A disappointing outing at the World Championships that followed the Commonwealth Games, where Batra did not see any success.

“After CWG, when I came back home, I got a really good reception. I got a lot of media coverage, which is a good thing because table tennis hadn’t got so much media coverage earlier,” Batra told Firstpost. “I didn’t get time to practice, as a matter of fact none of us did. There was very little time before the World Championships so we were not well prepared and everyone’s focus was blurred a bit, but we gave our best.”

The moral of the story for Batra was that past achievements did not matter one bit when it came to scaling new heights. “I kept just one thing in mind while I was coming back from the World Championships – I have to brush off the fact which I was keeping in my mind that I had won medals at the CWG.

And I have to behave normally. I am nothing right now. It’s just the beginning, and if I think the same way at the Asiad, I will be able to play well.”



So the strategy for Batra, who will be facing some of the best Table Tennis players in the world at Jakarta and Palembang, is simple – start afresh.

If expectations were exceeded by the women’s table tennis team at the CWG, Batra will temper it with a bit of realism this time around. In a best of five, she will be expected to play and win the two singles rubbers. It would take a drastic departure from strategy for Batra to not feature in these games.

“I will just go in with a positive mindset and play every match confidently. I would like to keep the same mindset as I had before the CWG. I will be starting afresh, it’s a new tournament so everything will be new.

If I think about the past then it will enter my mind that I have brought home the medals and have defeated these players which I don’t want to bring, so I have to have a fresh new start at the Asian Games.”

In just the last month (August), Batra jumped 24 places in the world table tennis rankings, and is high on confidence despite the show at the World Championships. And unlike the Commonwealth Games, Batra’s coach Sandeep Gupta will be at her side in Jakarta and Palembang, with his presence being valuable for any in-game observations and adjustments that she would potentially need to make to the counter the threat of a wily opponent.

And it is Gupta who sums up what the Asian Games means for him and his student perfectly. “Whatever we gain from this is going to be a plus,” he says. “For our goal, we are neither limiting ourselves nor demoralising. We will battle with all our capacity.”

Table Tennis action at the Asian Games begins on September 26.
| Edited by: Pratik Sagar
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