New Delhi, July 14 (IANS) The preparations of the Indian table tennis team for major international events, including the Olympic qualifiers, has hit a roadblock after Sweden's Anders Johansson turned down the offer of coaching the national team.
Johansson, a highly renowned international coach, surprised many Indian players by initially showing interest in the job. He, however, backed out as he wanted a longer stint than till only the 2012 London Olympics.
The team is now without a permanent coach since Italian Massimo Constantini's tenure ended with the Asian Games in November.
The senior members of the team are obviously disappointed with Johansson's sudden change of heart and now hope that Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) will find someone suitable at the earliest. India's next big assignment is the Asian Championship in Beirut in September, with the crucial Olympic qualifiers slated for April 2012 in Hong Kong.
Subhajit Saha, who won the doubles gold with Sharath Kamal in the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games, hopes the team will soon find a full-time coach.
"It is unfortunate that Johansson can't come here. We had heard so much about him and were looking forward to work with him. In fact, I had put my plans of training overseas on hold as he was coming. But now that he is not coming, I hope the federation (TTFI) will find a good coach soon," Saha told IANS.
Saha stressed on the need of having a dedicated professional with the team.
"We are without a permanent coach for sometime now though the only major tournament since the Asian Games was the World Championships where (former player) Kamlesh Mehta accompanied us.
"This an important time for the senior guys and also the youngsters waiting in the wings. The sooner we find someone the better," he added.
Soumyadeep Roy, a two-time national champion and a regular in the Indian team for the last 10 years, expects TTFI to find another coach of international standards.
"When we discussed Johansson's name with the federation, our mindset was to get someone who is aware of what is happening in international table tennis. He (Johansson) fitted the bill in that regard but now we have to look for a good coach. There is no point getting a mediocre coach from outside," Roy told IANS.
The TTFI said they have already started their search for a suitable candidate.
"Two crucial months were wasted in trying to get him (Johansson) here. He decided against the offer as he was seeking a longer contract than one year and also had family issues. However, he has recommended the name of his countryman Erik Lindh but I am also in touch with the International Table Tennis Federation for more options. We need to hire someone quickly," said TTFI secretary general Dhanraj Choudhary.