Table Tennis Under Lockdown: Covid Break is 'Agnipariksha' of Our Mental Strength, Says Madhurika Patkar

·6-min read

When around Indian table tennis players, one can always notice an enthusiastic, jumpy figure and that person is almost always Madhurika Patkar. The 33-year-old was part of the Indian women's team that ended Singapore's supremacy at the Commonwealth Games and won a gold at Gold Coast in 2018. And like every other athlete the 129-ranked paddler would have been looking forward for an eventful 2020; however, the coronavirus pandemic has all but wiped out the current season. Patkar though has been focussing on the bright side - however minuscule – of this global plight during these testing times.

"I feel we need to take every situation positively because negative reactions have a bad effect on us only. We always look for solutions and this attitude has helped me a lot in my entire career as well," Patkar said in an exclusive interaction with News18.com.

Patkar is currently locked down in country’s one of the worst-affected city, Mumbai, but amid the disorder, she has found the opportunity to work on her game in ways that she wouldn't get to otherwise.

During the lockdown, Patkar has been working on her fitness, which she says is both physical and mental.

She has been following her diet, has begun to do yoga and is also shadow practicing with her coach, and she feels "light". Patkar said the work she has put is showing in her game, especially in the way she is moving.

Patkar said during this lockdown, the key is to adapt and work through it in a positive manner.

"I was in self isolation from March 15 after returning from Oman Open. We had to give some papers to the federation and my dad told me to finish the work in a day because then it will go in lockdown and he said he feels it will go on till June and said to me 'you have to be mentally prepared for that'," Patkar told.

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She shared that the first week of her at home was extremely relaxing. And even after the 'janta curfew' was put in place and she had to shoulder a lot of responsibilities, she enjoyed it.

"I kind of adapted very quickly because I knew there was no way out and this was for our and others' safety. My coach and physical trainer, we had planned what all we could do in these days," she said.

VISUALISATION PRACTICE TO THE RESCUE?

Patkar said visualisation is something she practices daily and it may actually help her prepare for the situation ahead. In visualisation sessions, you close your eyes, imagine a situation and mentally work on different ways you can react to it.

Fans or not, Patkar feels it will not matter much to her.

"It will be different for sure. When you are playing, you want audience and you get energy from them as well. But we have to adapt.

"Personally, when I go inside the arena, it's just me and I am so focused that nothing else matters. And especially if you know from beforehand that this is the situation, then I think it won't matter for me," she said.

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Having been in visualisation practice anyway, Patkar said if she has to play with just her coach and physical trainer in the arena, she will focus on winning anyhow.

"With all that practice (of visualisation), your mind and body knows what to do in these situations."

BACK TO NATIONAL CAMP? 'TOO RISKY'

When the government had implemented lockdown 4.0 last month, sports stadiums and complexes were opened for practice and Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) intimated the eight top players of the country, asking whether a camp could be organised. Patkar said while her initial reaction was one of excitement, she soon felt it was extremely risky.

"When I got the mail that there will be a camp, I was so happy that I'll be playing. But the second thought was the camp will be elsewhere and that would require travelling and all and Mumbai is a red zone.

"So, I got skeptical and felt it was too risky. I was afraid that going from one place to another would be risky."

Patkar said since they will be playing after too long a break, they should begin with somewhere near. "I am reaching the point where I just want to start playing because three months is a very long time. I haven't taken such a long break since my 12th standard, which I took for my board exams. But this is like 'agnipariksha' of our mental strength."

Patkar also lauded International Table Tennis Federation's (ITTF) decision of not having doubles for now. She felt there is bound to be contact in doubles and it was unsafe.

"Doubles in tennis and badminton is different compared to table tennis. In the other two, one person can be on the front court and the other at the back, so it is possible. In table tennis, you have to alternate and we keep moving front to back and side by side.

"Also, the table is small compared to the courts of tennis and badminton so there will be contact. I feel ITTF's decision is right."

OLYMPIC POSTPONMENT AN ADVANTAGE?

Patkar feels the delay of Tokyo Olympics has affected the plans of all athletes alike and so it is all about resetting quickly and working out a plan again.

"Four years is a very long time and it needs a lot of energy so it is one more year of hardship. But I think whoever is quick to adapt and be mentally strong will be fine."

Patkar said while everything has to be re-planned, one cannot put the plans in stone because the situation is still so unpredictable.

"You can plan for a certain period and if it works, you can continue but otherwise, you have to re-plan. You have to stay strong.

"For the Indian players, we have the chance to prepare. We lost our chance of qualifying as a team in Portugal but now we have the chance to try again. If we take it positively, it may be an advantage for us," Patkar concluded.

"Four years is a very long time and it needs a lot of energy so it is one more year of hardship. But I think whoever is quick to adapt and be mentally strong will be fine."

The Thane-born said while everything has to be re-planned, one cannot put the plans in stone because the situation is still so unpredictable.

"You can plan for a certain period and if it works, you can continue but otherwise, you have to re-plan. You have to stay strong.

"For the Indian players, we have the chance to prepare. We lost our chance of qualifying as a team in Portugal but now we have the chance to try again. If we take it positively, it may be an advantage for us," Patkar concluded.