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Sudhir Phadke-the unsung hero

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This generation of players may have very little clue to the ability and achievements of Sudhir Phadke, who passed away last week in Delhi. The genial paddler died as an unsung hero and not even a brief mention of his death was carried in any newspaper. You can excuse the media for this minor aberration at a time when IPL takes the maximum columns of space in a cricket-crazy nation. Phadke was 58 and died in sleep. He is survived by his wife, a former India paddler, and a son.

 

For the records, Sudhir Phadke was an excellent player with full of commitment, more importantly, a great motivator. A defensive player by nature, Phadke was a revelation when he indulged in aggression to catch his opponents unawares and they included the best in business both in India and abroad. But what endeared him to all was his fitness, perseverance and tremendous self-belief and, above all, the ability to make his opponent earn his points when Sudhir would open up to attack and upset his rhythm. Sudhir ruled the Indian scene in the mid-70s both as a singles and doubles player and the credit for Delhi winning its maiden men’s team title in 1974 goes to him. Delhi went on to win a few more crowns with Sudhir leading the charge.

 

As for Sudhir’s top ranking, he achieved the highest then by an Indian when he became No. 35 in the world. That was soon after he reached the men’s singles quarterfinals in the Asian Championships at Pyonyong, North Korea, in 1976. He may not have won any singles medals on the international stage in his career, but Sudhir had won doubles bronze medals in the Commonwealth championships at Melbourne in 1975, in Scotland in 1979 and a few others in ‘Test’ matches in Korea and Japan.

 

In fact, Sudhir was at his peak in 1975-76 when he became India No. 1 after winning the senior national singles title. He competed in the US Open as India’s No. 1 player.  Sudhir had combined with Manjit Dua several times in his career and the former national champion vouches for Phadke’s quality. “He (Phadke) was a superb player and we used to draw inspiration from him. A great fighter and motivator, he was a dedicated player to the core and we could see his commitment during practice sessions and the appetite to win every time he visited the table,” recalls Dua.

 

Sudhir, a Maharashtrian who settled down in Delhi, did his schooling at Sardar Patel Vidhyalaya. Sudhir took to table tennis while in school and excelled in it as well as his studies. He was a bright student and graduated from the Hindu College. He not only won the inter-collegiate table tennis competitions for his alma mater, but also helped Delhi University win the all-India varsity title in the sport. All the while, Manjit Dua was a great companion to Sudhir, besides being a playing partner at the Hindu.

 

Sudhir, after passing out from the Hindu, joined Indian Bank as many paddlers would do then. In those days, a job in the banking sector was a great attraction and several banks used to recruit sportspersons. Almost all banks then had many table tennis players in their ranks and the inter-bank tournaments were such a rage that paddlers vied with one another to win the crowns in singles as well as team events.  

 

It was during the period that Sudhir Phadke met his match and future life partner in Veenu Bhushan, who was then part of the Indian girls’ team. Veenu, who represented UP, has to her credit winning the junior girls’ national title in 1973. She went on to represent India soon after and won a bronze medal at the Asian Championships in 1974. She rose to the Asia No. 3 ranking. The Phadkes did exceedingly well in life, showering affection towards each other and helping young players come up in Delhi. Sudhir, who left the bank job, to take up business did well but, despite being busy, also kept abreast with the sport. He was immensely pleased when the Delhi girls for the first time emulated him when they won the national team title at Raipur early this year.

 

Sudhir Phadke will be remembered by his peers for his different good qualities as well as what he achieved in the sport which was close to his heart. If young and upcoming players of the country show even half of his commitment and follow his dictum in life they can go places. His untimely death has, indeed, snatched away a mentor and an ardent supporter of the game. The table tennis fraternity will miss the bubbly presence of Sudhir forever.

 

I, on behalf of the TTFI, join the rest of table tennis fraternity in offering our heartfelt condolences. I pray to god to give his family immense strength. RIP Sudhir.  

 

Dhanraj Choudhary
Secretary General

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