Akhilesh Sudhakar, captain of the table tennis team at BITS Pilani, was seen working through a series of intense agility drills in VK lawns just before this interview. It is almost midnight, and BOSM is round the corner; the team practises for one and a half hours in the morning and for three hours in the evening, but as the captain, he wants to leave no stone unturned.
“Up until a few days ago, the hall that we usually practice in didn’t even have exhaust fans”, exclaimed Akhilesh, wiping sweat from his brow. Even with new fans having been installed, he said that practice was extremely exhausting. He wants the ten boys on the team to be at their peak mentally, as well, so that their reflexes will be top-notch. “As preparation for BOSM, we often analyse previous games and try to anticipate opponent strategies, in order to better our games from a mental standpoint”, said Akhilesh. Other than that, he wants spin and pace to be an integral part of the team strategy during every match.
The captain admitted that the intense preparations are affecting his academics, as it is difficult to attend all classes while practicing for so many hours a day. “Coping with academics is very tough for us athletes when BOSM is approaching; however, the players do sometimes take off from practice early to prepare for tests”, he said. Akhilesh believes that to be successful in the game, the team must focus on stamina and physical development. “We’re spending a lot of time on exercises to achieve that end; a coach is helping us get there.”
Akhilesh is wary of new teams, like IIT Delhi and IIT Jodhpur, and believes that they have good players. “We have an intense rivalry with a Sri Lankan team too; they have international level players in their line-up”, he said. He knows that the team is expected to get the gold, but he also believes that it is tougher to maintain the gold than to win it the first time. “There’s the added pressure of being the defending champions, but I have utter faith in my team. I expect nothing less than gold.”
Akhilesh wants the BITSian junta to come and support the team in their games because he believes that the team receives a huge advantage from home support. He signs off, exhorting the students to not go home during BOSM because, “If you don’t play a particular sport, it’s very rare for you to get an exposure to so many of them, simultaneously, unless you attend the Olympics.”