Commonwealth Games: Manika Batra’s heroics help India turn silver into gold

Manika Batra of Oilmax Stag Yoddhas during the Tie 5 match of the CEAT Ultimate Table TennisNew Delhi: “A pure team work,” said coach Massimo Costantini even as he gave full credit to Manika Batra, who carved out a special niche for Indian table tennis as the country became the only second nation in the history to win gold in women’s team event at the Commonwealth Games.

India, helped by Manika’s heroics, defeated top-seeded and defending championships Singapore 3-1 in the final to claim their first gold on Day 4 at the Games in Gold Coast.

Singapore had dominated CWG with four gold medals in women’s team events since it was included at Manchester in 2002. And, as a defending champion, they were expected to make it five-in-a-row but Manika delivered the first blow when she turned the tables on world No. 4 Tianwei Feng to win the opening rubber 3-2 (11-8, 8-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-7). Though Madhurika Patkar lost her second match to Mengyu Yu in straight games 11-3, 2-11, 6-11, the Indian combined well with Mouma Das to down Yihan Zhou and Mengyu 11-7, 11-6, 8-11, 11-7 to wrest the initiative back.

It was up to Manika, the star player India had been banking on, to complete the job which she did admirably demolishing Yihan 11-7, 11-4, 11-7 and create history.

“I was just thinking at 7-all that I had to win, I had to win the medal for India. I wanted to step on to the top step of the podium and see the tricolour going up as the national anthem played. I’ve practised a great deal with Massimo to attack more from my backhand, the pimpled rubber but I think today the big improvement was my forehand, I think that really surprised Singapore. It’s the first time I’d ever played Feng Tianwei but previously when I played Zhou Yihan I lost.” Manika Batra.

Coach Massimo, while complimenting the team for winning gold, reserved special praises for Manika. “I was immensely pleased with the way she (Manika) handled Feng. Manika was down 1-2 but she shifted the pressure on the Singaporean girl with a fantastic game plan. She played so differently, using all tricks in her book and adapting herself well to the situation. Manika was simply superb today,” said the coach.

Earlier in the day, the same Indian combination had demolished England 3-0 to enter the Games final for the second time, eight years after New Delhi had hosted the Games in 2010.

Manika Batra, facing an adversary who was no stranger, set India on the road to victory as she accounted for Kelly Sibley 9-11, 11-7, 11-5, 11-7. The Indian lass had beaten the Briton at the Polish Open recently.

Madhurika Patkar upped the ante when she downed Tin-Tin Ho 3-1 and then the tested and tried doubles duo of Madhurika and Patkar put India in the final when it defeated Kelly Sibley and Maria Tsaptsinos 11-7, 8-11, 11-7, 11-1.