Somnath Ghosh – In the Spotlight
The name of Somnath Ghosh, a former paddler from Bengal would not have been familiar if his student Sreeja Akula had not acquired the desired gold medal in the mixed event in the recently concluded Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, playing with Sharath Kamal. However, Somnath who has been running a table tennis school in Hyderabad for the last 11 years, had already come into the spotlight when Sreeja Akula emerged as the senior national champion with a victory against Mouma Das, a rare achievement from Hyderabad after 64 years when Mir Kasim Ali became senior national champion in 1958.
Coaching and Hurdles
Somnath Ghosh used to play regularly in the professional circuit from Bengal. He has medals in national championships, representing Bengal as well as Andhra Pradesh and later Telangana. He had represented India in the ‘School Asian Games’. He had gone to Hyderabad as a Railway employee. His playing career came to an end following an injury and then he started coaching there. Talking over the phone from Hyderabad, Somnath the 38-year-old former paddler said,
“I have a well-wisher named Amarnath Reddy. He is a state government employee. But the more important thing is that he has done a lot for me and still he is helping me with whatever I need for the development of my school. Whatever success I have achieved today is due to his contribution.” At the beginning of his coaching days, Somnath had to face severe obstructions from different quarters there in Hyderabad. During this phase he was often asked to leave Hyderabad and return to Kolkata. According to him, during the crisis, it was Reddy who gave him confidence.
Table Tennis School of Somnath Ghosh
A renowned company named NSL has provided a formidable space in the parking area of its big shopping mall near Kukatpally for Somnath’s table tennis school. The hall is accommodated with six tables and has also an artificial turf for the students’ fitness training. Somnath informed me that the main difficulty he is having now is the lack of a modern gym. He added,
“We are desperately in search of a place near our school to set up a modern gym. Let us see.” Presently, Somnath has around 40 students, out of which 20 students are from Hyderabad itself including Sreeja. Somnath revealed that around 15 among his students including Sreeja have now been hitting the spotlight at the national level including the senior, junior, and sub-junior stages.
Somnath and Sreeja Akula were welcomed by the state sports minister after their return from Birmingham with Commonwealth Games gold in the mixed doubles event. Then Somnath Ghosh was also invited by the state sports minister to a tea party along with Pullela Gopichand. But the function did not finally take place as Gopichand and his medal-winning daughter Gayatri was not available. Somnath is happy with the least amount of recognition he is obtaining after Sreeja’s gold at Birmingham.
But the former Bengal paddler does not want to stick to it. Even Sreeja, despite being delighted with the success, does not want to sit and relish it. Somnath explained,
“Sreeja and I-none of us are active in social media. I am happy that the people in Hyderabad are recognizing me. The guardians are sending their children to my school in spite of the fact that the city has a few more table tennis coaching centers. But I do not want to become happy as only the coach of Sreeja. I want to produce more paddlers of international standard like Sreeja.”-- Advertisement --
The Ultimate Dream of Somnath Ghosh
Living in Hyderabad for more than 20 years, Somnath Ghosh has been closely watching Gopichand, one of the faces of the city who is called the revolutionist in Indian badminton. Somnath has the ultimate dream of being ‘Gopichand’ of table tennis in Hyderabad. He explained,
“Even after Sreeja’s Commonwealth Games gold, the scenario of table tennis in Hyderabad has not much changed. I know a medal in the Olympics will bring a huge change as it happened after P V Sindhu achieved medals in Rio Olympics. I know winning a medal in Olympics table tennis is extremely difficult. Still, I am not the person to give up. You have to reach the level where you can beat Chinese, Korean and Japanese players. Manika Batra has defeated Chinese paddlers. Sreeja has also beaten Chinese players. More significantly, in a recent international circuit tournament, Sreeja was the only Indian girl to have snatched a game from world number 13 Chen Xingtong and in the decisive game, Sreeja forced Chen to go to ‘deuce’. Having seen Sreeja’s amazing performance I felt our girls can reach within the world’s top 15. So, if I can produce more paddlers from our school for the national team and if they can bring laurels then I also will be able to reach that height. Yes, I dream of being ‘Gopichand’ of table tennis.”
Mission Sreeja Akula
Somnath Ghosh has now the sole mission of improving Sreeja’s standard and in a bid to do that he is planning to arrange a practice partner for her. Somnath wants Sreeja’s practice partner to be from China, Korea, or Japan.
“I have taken initiative already. In that case, I will take Sreeja to any of those three countries for training for a couple of months,” Somnath finished off.