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Indian TT made poorer by Chandra's loss




New Delhi, May 12: Indian table tennis on Wednesday became poorer with the loss of V. Chandrasekhar, a player par excellence and a coach that had the eyes to spot talent. He was 63 and is survived by his wife and a son.


Chandra, a three-time national champion and the most popular paddler of his time, was an economics graduate from the D.G. Vaishnava College and did his law graduation from the Madras Law College. He passed with distinction in both, winning the gold medals.  


Chandra, a recipient of the Arjun Award, could have prolonged his playing career but for a knee surgery that went wrong. He last appeared in the Indore nationals, held in 1983, losing to the eventual champion Kamlesh Mehta, who won his first national title.


Chandra had beaten Kamlesh in the previous nationals at Palghat for the Chennai paddler’s third consecutive and last national crown. In 1984, he participated in the Central Zone event at Indore, conceding the final to Manjit Singh Dua, when the crowd booed and pilloried Chandra on some personal issues. He was hardly 25 at that time.


“I had known Chandra from his playing days and as an SBI colleague. You can’t find such a soft-spoken personality like him. As far as his play goes, he was simply superb as a player and competitor. He has helped his state (Tamil Nadu) to several titles in team events as well. It’s a real tragedy to lose a good friend and an able coach like him,” said Manjit, who is also the national chief coach.



Chandra was selected into the squad for the Asian Championships in Islamabad with Kamlesh, Arun Jyoti Barua and Sujoy Gorphade. But Chandra gave a skip to the event, preferring an arthroscopy to remove the broken part of the cartilage on his right leg. What happened after surgery is history, including his win over the hospital in a court battle.


Kamlesh Mehta, recalling his association with Chandra, said that it was difficult to find such an amiable character. “He was friendly on and off the court. It was he who made topspin popular in India. He learned the skills at (Ichiro) Ogimura’s academy in Japan. I spoke to him on the day he got admitted to the hospital (May 8). But who would have thought he would leave us all so soon,” he asked, mourning the loss of a friend and admirer?


But Chandra could never return to the mainstream play after surgery. He had blurred vision and speech and, more importantly, lost his mobility. The fighter in Chandra, however, never gave up. Nor did his spirit deter him. He found a way to stay connected with the sport he so loved till his last breath.


He turned his attention to coaching soon after. A few names that benefited from his advice and care include former national champion M.S. Mythili and reigning national champion, G. Sathiyan. Chandra was keen on grooming youngsters at his academy. The current Sub-Junior national champion, Preyesh Raj Suresh, is an example of that. If only he had lived long, Chandra could have produced more champions. 


Chandra tasted success at the state level when he first became a sub-junior champion (1970) and Junior champion (1973). Known for harmony and rhythm, Chandra reached the pinnacle, winning the national title. Chandra, a semi-finalist at the Commonwealth Championships in 1982, had helped India progress from category 2 to 1 at the Tokyo World Championships.