New Delhi: India’s 60-year wait for a table tennis medal at Asian Games was ended this year in Indonesia, thanks to the men’s team.

Since the sport’s debut at Asian Games in 1958, India had managed to finish on the podium. Now, 60 years later, India has two bronze medals.

While Manika Batra and Achanta Sharath Kamal secured the second medal in the mixed team event, the maiden medal came because of the historic win of the men’s team.

The team comprising Sharath Kamal, Anthony Amalraj, Harmeet Desai, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Manav Vikash Thakkar defeated Japan to make the semi-finals. They lost to Korea 0-3 in the last-four stage to settle for the bronze.

In an interview with MyNation, the 25-year-old Harmeet shared his experience of winning the historic medal in Indonesia. The Surat boy credited domestic leagues including the Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) for success.

MyNation: A historic bronze medal for the men’s table tennis team at Asian Games 2018. How does it feel to create history?

Harmeet Desai: It feels great to be a part of the team and winning a bronze medal for the first time ever. It's a dream of every table tennis player to win a medal in the Asian Games where all the top teams of the world play.

MN: After the success in Commonwealth Games in Australia, seems like you have gone on to carry the form into Asian Games?

Harmeet: Yes, after the Commonwealth Games (CWG), we were very high on confidence. After the best ever performance in CWG, we were optimistic of making our way to the first medal in Asian Games. We trained well in China just before the Asian Games which helped us a lot to beat a team like Japan.

MN: In the group stages there were tense moments after a loss. How did the team motivate each other and see through to the next stages?

Harmeet: We were very close to win against Chinese Taipei in the group stages but we still had belief in ourselves and knew that new opportunities were coming our way on the next day and didn't wanted ourselves to dishearten with the loss. We were even more determined in the quarter-finals which helped us to stay together and beat Japan.

MN: Has the inception of domestic leagues helped in identifying new talent and at the same time is giving more exposure to those who have been in the circuit?

Harmeet: Definitely. The leagues have definitely helped the Indian players a lot where the foreign players are coming to our country and Indian players are getting the experience to be in the same team with them and also know how they prepare themselves and play against them. It has also helped us to narrow the mental gap which Indian players felt before. Every Indian player now feels that we can beat the world’s top-ranked players which was lacking before the league started in India. Now, the Indian players have a lot of self-belief.

MN: How did the team celebrate the maiden medal success and what’s the next goal?

Harmeet: After the last point, we all jumped the barriers and made our way to the playing area and hugged each other. The celebration was really special because it was our first-ever medal in Asian Games since the sport was introduced in Asian Games in 1958.

MN: The Indian TT team at present is a good mix of veterans and youngsters. How does it feel to be a part of such a team and how has it helped in improving your game?

Harmeet: I feel the Indian team is at its best right now. We have players from different generations which is hard to see in other teams. This is the first time that the Indian team has such strong bench strength. There is a lot of competition among the Indian players to get in the team which helps us to get better and better.