India's leading table tennis players, including Sharath Kamal and G Sathiyan, have informed the national federation TTFI that they are not ready to join the proposed national camp before August, citing safety concerns in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the central government's decision to open sports stadiums and complexes without spectators last month, the TTFI had sought players' availability twice for the training camp, first for the beginning of June and then for June last week. The Players have ended up saying no to both.
"We can start in the first week of August, that too depending on the situation at that point of time. All of us are on the same page that it is unsafe to travel anytime soon. The cases continue to rise," world number 31 Sharath told PTI.
"The first time the TTFI had written to us, the second time it asked us verbally (to check availability)," he said.
Like teammate Sathiyan, Sharath too has a training arena set up at home in Chennai.
To make his sessions more effective, Sharath has made a request, through the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS), for a sophisticated Butterfly Robot. Sathiyan is already using the same equipment at home.
"It is not like the other robots available in the market. It allows you to adjust the speed, length and angle of the ball. Considering the current situation where we are advised to stay at home, this equipment will be of immense help in my practice sessions," said Sharath.
Sathiyan said it is still early days to talk about extensive training camps of players under one roof.
"Flights have just started and every state has its quarantine protocols upon arrival. Unless flights operate normally and quarantine rule goes away, I don't see the camp taking place. August is far way and hopefully situation improves by then and we can all train together," said world number 32 Sathiyan.
TTFI secretary general M P Singh said the federation respect players' decision.
"They have conveyed to us that they are not ready for the camp till August. We respect their decision," Singh added.
World body ITTF has suspended all its activities until July end due to the COVID-19 pandemic.