Developing cold feet while facing the world's best is one perennial problem plaguing majority of the Indian players, said national table tennis coach Massimo Costantini. "The moment Indian players are up against top-10, top-20 players, something happens to them and are not able to play to their potential. They get tensed and nervous when they should take it like any other match. It is the mindset that separates the top-20 players from someone who is ranked around 100," Costantini told PTI. To prove his point, the Italian cited the loss of Harmeet Desai, ranked 112, to world number 19 Koki Niwa in the pre-quarterfinals of the ITTF World Tour India Open here today. The Indian began well against the Japanese before fizzling out in the pre-quarterfinals match. Currently, three Indians -- Sharath Kamal, Soumyajit Ghosh and Manika Batra -- are ranked in the top-100. Costantini, who has returned to India for a second stint, said Indians will have to add variety to their game to become world-class. "They have the talent, they have the strokes but the mindset is missing. And that will come when you play more and more international tournaments. Someone like a Harmeet knows how to play only in two or three ways but a top-20 player will adjust to 20 different types of players. He is used to being in tough situations but most of our players are not," the coach said. He said he has prepared a "big plan" for the Indian team ahead of the Commonwealth and Asian Games next year. The former United States coach had notably taken India to its best ever Commonwealth Games medal haul in Delhi seven years ago. "The main challenge is to get everyone together and train under one roof. Earlier, we put a lot of focus on practice but now it will be more about playing as many internationals as possible.
The best way to learn is to play against the best. You achieve set targets in practice but it is you learn more by playing matches," he said. Most of the leading players including Kamal, Ghosh, Desai, Anthony Amalraj and Sanil Shetty are contracted to clubs in Europe. "I understand they have something contractual obligations but you also have an unwritten contract with the national team. Playing for India has to be a priority. We will be conducting camps both in India and outside in the lead up to the Commonwealth Games." The team had travelled overseas extensively in the run up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games, both for training and competition purpose. And it paid off with India winning an unprecedented five medals. "The difference between now and seven years ago is there are many events taking place in China. So it won't be possible to train there like earlier but we will have to field our players in all the top events around the world," he stressed. Despite improvements being made in the game, India remains an also-ran at the world level while its Commonwealth rival England has surged ahead, winning a historic bronze at the World Championships last year. Can India do an England? "If England can do it, we can do it too. But a lot of things have to fall in place. England did not face an Asian country enroute to the semifinals but still managed to win bronze. It was a lottery and not a true reflection of where England stand," he said.
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