“The time to strategize is over. It’s time to put into action all the planning that has gone into the preparation of our team for the Commonwealth Games,” was a straight-forward declaration from Sharath Kamal on Monday.

Honoured by the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) President Ajay Chautala on Monday for winning the US Open and the Egypt Open titles on way to reaching a career-high world ranking of 39, Sharath said, “we have prepared well this time. We have had a series of competitions abroad and we train at least once in six months in China. The entire team is working hard and we are optimistic of being among the medals.”

Late on Monday night, the Indian team left for the $330,000 China Open (August 18 to 22) beginning at Suzhou. After taking part in what will be last competition for the Indians ahead of the Commonwealth Games (Oct 3-14), the contingent will be attending a 20-day camp at Zhending.

“Actually, we were due to have the camp in the days leading to the China Open but we had to play the inter-institutional championship at Ajmer and went home thereafter for some rest,” said Sharath.

Though it is quite apparent the players would have preferred to have some serious practice before going into a tough competition like the China Open, Italian coach Massimo Costantini thought otherwise.

“After the China Open, we will be able take corrective measures during the camp in China. That was the way it has been planned. Looking at Sharath’s form, I expect him to be in the second round since he should top his group in the qualifying league.”

On the teams’ return from China, Sharath is likely to go to Ochsenhausen, between Munich and Stuttgart, for a week’s training before turning out for his German club on September 24. “I prefer some training in Europe before defending my title in the Games.”

Meanwhile, the TTFI announced incentive money of Rs. three lakh to the winners of individual Commonwealth Games gold, Rs. two lakh for the silver and Rs. one lakh for the bronze. “A similar amount will be given to the members of the medal winning team,” said Mr. Chautala.

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