How to become a pro table tennis player in India

Pro table tennis would mean that you would get paid for playing in a proper employment either under salary or contractual norm. Which means somebody has to hire you and sponsor you.

Well currently in India the employers are:

  1. Air India
  2. Indian railways
  3. PSPB (Petroleum Sports Promotion Board) that includes major petroleum companies like:
    1. Indian oil
    2. ONGC
    3. BPCL
    4. HPCL and few other
  4. Banking sector (Dena, SBI, PNB, etc.)
  5. Postal office
  6. Securities including:
    1. Indian Army
    2. Indian Navy
    3. Indian air force
    4. BSF, etc
  7. Private television body like ‘Ultimate Table Tennis

Now depending on your age, you should have a reality check. Not sure about the defense on how they recruit but mostly internal from defence personnels and their family members only.

The rest of the government units recruit only the top (top 10) rankers in a state that too via sports quota.

So, to get a job you have to be a state topper. I started playing when I was 27 years. I am not even ranked. I rather coach. All my state ranked and national ranked practice partners and students are around 10 – 16 years of age. Those that come to play as kids are as young as 8. Those who are state and India ranked and above 20 had also started their career when they were 8/11.

The toppers today are not made overnight. It takes 4 years of rigorous practice and tournaments to reach district level.

Here is the list of my practice partners and their age

*Rankings are the best rankings and might not be current ranking*

  • Havish Asrani (India #2 cadets) is just 11. He beats me 11–8ish
  • Ananya Basak (India #1 Juniors, India #5 youth, also daughter of Arup Basak and sister of Nilay Basak – they are all legends) is just 15. She beats me 11–5ish
  • My student Shivam Das (India #16 youth) is around 15. I used to beat him 11–6ish but we haven’t met after his national rankings
  • Mukta Dalvi (Maharashtra #6, cadets) is also 11. I sometimes beat her but it goes very neck to neck

The list that I mentioned above are not even recruited. They’re at cadets and Juniors level. They’re at the bottom of the pyramid. When they move to youth, the competition would be fierce. Some might hold their rankings some might lose and some might move up. Those that move up the triangle are obviously very very less. And only they get selected.

Here is a list of my seniors who were/are professional players and their employers at different times:

  • Sanil Shetty (India #1) Air India, BPCL
  • Aman Balgu (India #4) Indian railways
  • Dhiraj Rai (Chennai #2, India#12) Dena Bank and PNB
  • Eric Fernandes (Maharashtra #1, Maharashtra Juniors and youth Coach 2017–2018) Income Tax and IRS
  • Noel Pinto (Maharashtra #2, India #12) Indian railways
  • Martand (Maharashtra #4) Indian railways

All of them started when they were 8/9 years old. They practice 3–4 hours or 6–8 hours everyday depending on age and championship level. The reason I mentioned these stats is to show how age matters a lot. It’s been 5 years that I’m practicing and I can beat only a 11 year old school girl. My partner Amrita Jaisingh, who is Mumbai corporate champion and is playing for around 7 years can’t even beat 11 year old Mukta, forget about beating me. That’s how good a district cadet player is.

I would suggest not to pursue professional table tennis unless you’re rich. It costs a lot of money without any returns or financial gains. I have seen these players and their life. It’s not at all good. A good Table Tennis bat would cost around 20–25 k. Another 10k for other merchandise. Lots of traveling in different parts of the country, staying there, eating, etc. Then you have to change rubbers regularly. Only the national ranked prayers are sponsored by companies like Stag, Donic and Tibhar. Only Sanil received a salary that a software professional earns after 2 promotions. Those in railways have to work as TTE or guard or yard superintendent for peanuts.

What you can do instead is to play for your company at corporate tournaments. Once you get a good job, have a work life balance and have money to spend, join a good club and enjoy the sport. I play and coach at Bombay YMCA in Mumbai. There are many professionals who come here to enjoy the sport. You can look for representing your company like Amrita and I do. You can then play at various open tournaments and corporate tournaments in your city. I have represented Tata Consultancy Services in 2013–14 and will now represent JP Morgan Chase this year. Amrita has always represented JP Morgan Chase. We both play corporates in Mumbai.

But don’t dream too high. Most former national players who join good companies also participate in corporate championships 😀 Most medals are taken by them. Again, they are those who have played for 20 to 30 years continuously.

Check your age, your resources and all the best.

*Spoiler alert* Life is not like the movie Sultan or Kung-Fu Panda where you become champion in days. It takes decades of painstaking hardwork and focus to be a champion in sports.

Keep playing 😉

Although I cannot write specifically for India, here’s some principles:

  1. Time: Nowadays, table tennis has evolved to a high technical standard. You must be able to spend hours each day mastering strokes, strategy, and especially looping.
  2. Coach: You don’t need a professional coach to start. Just someone who’s been playing longer and better than your current level. Coaches tend to have a lot of competitive experience that you can learn from.
  3. International Competitions: You must be able to compete on an international level. Start small with a local club. Then work your way to regional and national competitions.

Some other things to consider:

  1. Rubbers: Professional players tend to have high quality rubbers. This allows you to better generate spin.
  2. Serve Deception: This is one technique that allows you to move beyond the intermediate level. If you disguise your serves well, and mess up your opponent on the serve return, then you can progress past those who can’t read serves. Of course, this takes coaching, observation, and lots of practice.
  3. Endurance: International competitions are played best out of 7 games. You must be fit in order to compete at the highest level. If you are able to run or jog 5 kilometers without giving up, that’s a good start.

Join a good table tennis academy and start preparing. Attend all state ranking tournaments and keep improving your game until you win a couple of state tournaments and then go to national and try to make it to the Indian team. For more check out Online Shopping Site for Table tennis Rubbers, Blades, Rackets, Balls, Accessories & More @ Topspin.in

Every aspiring TT player has an aim to become a pro asap … so for getting into the limelight one has to go through many levels…. For example. ..ZPs (zilla parishad) then District level then state level n finally the Nationals…All the best!