Tuesday, January 09, 2018

thirty seven banana peels #33: ping pong

I have a post on cricket. I am wondering how ping pong got left out.

If I have to compare the amount of time I spent between cricket and ping-pong it would be a tie more or less. But that is if cricket watching and analysis is counted. If playing time is what is being compared, ping pong wins hands down. I am kind of surprising myself with this revelation.

If I discount picking up a racquet and dabbling the ball here and there, I think I seriously started playing in college. I had a friend (yes, one of these buggers) who was a virtuso. A virtuso relative to how I was playing. But even accounting for my skills now I can say he was extremely good. 

During our lunch break, we had about 45-50 minutes. After quickly eating our food, we went to our college's recreation room which had a table. We played there almost everyday. It was a slightly frustrating experience because there was just one table and we got just one game many days. Two on better days.

I decided I loved the game too much to contend with one 10 minute game everyday. So I joined YMCA with two of my friends (same blokes). Finally we could play as long as we wished.

I recollect so many hours I put in to this game and I slowly got very good, still not as good as my other friend. However, when I partnered with the third friend (who was approximately on par with me in skills) for a doubles game with my virtuso friend and another partner, our skills sort of became more than the amount of ours both put together. It is like a jinx which none of us have been explain so far. I remember one game where we were down 18 to 7 and we went on to win the game against the V friend. He abhors losing. So it was an enjoyable win for us.

At the time I wasn't earning (obviously). Yet I convinced my parents to spend about INR 2000 for a semi-pro ping pong racquet. I got it with my V friend. Part of me was really scared it was money down the drain. But after playing with it for a few hours, I could see the game was up a few notches. It is not very unlike running with good running shoes or listening to music with a high quality headset. If the game is important to you, investing in good gaming gear improves it.

After I joined my first company, I found they had a ping-pong table (yaay!). So many more hours of ping pong. However, it was here I was exposed to what taking your game X levels more than my existing skills meant. There was another V I met there. I recall playing a singles match with him and I thought I was good (hell, in a sense I was). But I was so badly thwarted, exposed, ripped up and left to dry that it was a humiliating experience. I lost 21-7. But it turned out to be an eye opener in terms of possibilities.

Then my company conducted an inter-DC (dev center) tournament and there were qualifying matches to shortlist the reps from each DC. The guy above qualified from our DC. Much to my genuine shock, I found out this guy lost 21-13 to a guy from Bangalore. It opened up my eyes further as to how far you can push your game if you put in the work. It wasn't the YouTube era then. But we have the benefit of it now. Watch Ma Long's snippets here. I found a few more playing partners in my company. There there were many intra-DC tournaments we participated in. I don't recall winning any. But I remember being the semi finalist or finalst a few times.

My second company also had a table tennis table. My frequency of playing came down as my role did not offer much time. But there was a tournament here and I won that. (after few years of hiatus).

Finally, my "current company" (the one I am volunteering for) got a table tennis table recently. So guess what I do during game time? Many folks are learning only now. There are one or two folks who play like me so it is an interesting mix. I learn to enjoy the game instead of trying to expect too much.

One interesting episode that happened here was that one American who had come to volunteer came to play. Since there weren't any others waiting, we played singles (otherwise we play doubles). All his shots came to me and I managed to send them back to him. Some were tricky but I did not miss any. Every time I managed to return, his exclamations ranged from "Man!", "Jeez!", "Oh come on!", "Are you kidding me?"

At the end of the game, he came up to me and asked, "how did you get so good?"

I said, "I've been playing for long".

"Man, it was like ping-pong Sadhana for me".

I smiled.

"And you know what the worst part was?"

"What?"

"You were taking it easy on me." (I think he lost the game 21-5)
"If you wished you could have taken me 21-0".

I am not trying to be "humble" here. In spite of all the time I've put in and however well I can play, my current skill rating will be 4 out of 10. Why? Watch Ma Long's snippets again. There is always another peak to scale.

So ping-pong Sadhana it is for now and later!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

That's pretty cool!

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