A champ, who has his own table tennis robot at home, and a little star from the RSC's Pratheeksha scheme make the Kerala team at the National sub-junior championship, which begin in the city today, an interesting mix

Mishal Dilawar was shocked with the range of table tennis rubbers when he went to Chennai last year. “There were so many of them…and so many players with different rubbers,” said the youngster about his experience at the SDAT camp in Chennai where some of the country's best players, including Sharath Kamal, train. “And some of them behaved very funnily.”

Mishal has overcome the shock and has now even begun to win a few battles against some misbehaving rubbers in his own little way. His dad, C. M. Dilawar, has also set up a table and a table tennis robot at his house at Kathrikadavu. And the results are beginning to show.

Players like Mishal, Ajins T. Saji, Nandini Menon, Bhavana Menon, Nithin Narayan are among the leading lights of the game in Kerala. They are also Ernakulam's big hope as it looks to take on the State's table tennis super powers like Alappuzha, which has a very successful academy at the YMCA, and Thiruvananthapuram.

Some of them, like Ajins Saji have been brought to Regional Sports Centre from districts like Wayanad, while a few others are being coached by former National champion Ambika Radhika at the K. R. Pillai Academy, which she started recently at the Kadavanthra YMCA in memory of her father. Many of them will be in action in the 73rd National Sub-junior and Cadet Championships which begin at the Rajiv Gandhi indoor stadium in the city on Thursday.

The brightest

Mishal appears to be the brightest of the sport's little soldiers if his performances at the recent State Championship in Thiruvananthapuram are anything to go by. He won the sub-junior boys' title defeating Alappuzha's Anas Irshad and then gave a big scare to another Alappuzha youngster Rahul Binu Mathew, who later was in action in the men's final.

“I was leading 3-1 and 10-7, just a point away from victory, but I threw it all away,” said Mishal at the Regional Sports Centre TT Academy where he trains under the supervision of coaches B. Sudheendran and Rani Navaz.

“I was impressed with his body language when he first came to the RSC Academy some three or four years ago,” says Sudheendran, a former State star. “Mishal is an attacking player and a good prospect for the future but he has to improve his mobility, especially his sideways movement.”

While Mishal will figure in the sub-junior event at the Kochi Nationals, Ajins will be in action in the cadet section.

Ajins was initiated into table tennis at Kalpetta but he landed in Kochi one and half years ago through the Regional Sports Centre's Pratheeksha scheme which helps the ‘have-nots' realise their sporting dreams too.

“The Regional Sports Centre started the scheme two years ago, presently we have five children training at the RSC's TT Academy under the scheme,” says S.A.S. Navaz, the Secretary of the Kerala Table Tennis Association. “It a totally free package, from head to toe and they are all studying at the Sacred Heart School in Thevara. Recently, we gave them rubbers, worth Rs. 2,500 each side, which were sponsored by G.K. Industries in Meerut.”

Ajins, the current State cadet boys champion, appears to be the brightest of the children under the scheme. “I've improved in all ways with help from my coaches Rani and Sudheendran and with the multi-ball training at the academy,” says Ajins, the son of a soda-maker. Apart from the coaching sessions, Rani also helps the children with their lessons.

Pushilal's push

Pushilal's recent camp at the RSC was also a big help, says Ajins. “I got new ideas on how to handle tight situations from Pushilal sir. ‘However down you are, do not give up' he told us,” said Ajins. “He also helped improve my movement in a big way.”

A lot more lessons will come the children's way at the Nationals.

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MetroplusJune 28, 2012