Ahmedabad: Form is temporary and class is permanent, is an oft-repeated saying in sports. And this could be true of any superstar sportsperson. When we talk about table tennis and Achanta Sharath Kamal, we simply don’t talk about his exploits alone. Kamal, we all know, is a class apart and his fan-following is something that is to be seen to be believed, whether he is in India or abroad.
He is a cult figure for the new generation of players who not only adore him as an idol but also try and emulate his achievements. In short, Kamal is the best role model one can think in a low-profile sport like table tennis in the country.
Kamal, after losing his quarterfinal match in the Institutional championships at Delhi, was devoid of match-practice before the ensuing Asian Cup. He knew his opponents at Ahmedabad well and desperately wanted to play in the South Zone championships at Dharwad to get match-fit.
Showing his shades of brilliance he entered the final and simply rolled past his opponent Anthony Amalraj in the first three games. That was when the latter applied the brakes on him and from there Amalraj just turned it around to win the title.
Disappointed as he was, Sharath admitted it in as many words. “Yes, I am disappointed but credit should go to Amalraj. He clawed his way back nicely and used the opportunities to his advantage,” said the top-ranked Indian in the world at No 47.
He, however, regretted the fact that he was unable to practice as well for the Ahmedabad event before Dharwad because he and his wife Sri Poorni were expecting their second child — they have named the boy Tejas. “Running between hospital, home and the training centre, I was unable to concentrate fully. But what was important for me was how I was shaping up for the bigger challenges,” he said.
Being among the top 12, from the 16 that will be on view in the Asian Cup, Sharath is hopeful of being placed in the third group where he will have to play two matches. “Once the draw is out I will plan my strategy. My first target is to reach the quarters because that will help me qualify for the World Cup in Canada later this year. I am fit, confident and a bit relaxed after all the running around,” concluded Kamal.