Diya Chitale, a teenager from western Mumbai, has been dominating the domestic table tennis circuit for almost a decade. But more than her exploits on the table, it was her controversial exclusion  before being included in India’s squad for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham that brought her into the national limelight.

With the controversy around the team selection having died down, 19-year-old Diya is ready for her maiden multi-discipline global sojourn.

“The entire team is bonding pretty well together. Only Manika di (Batra) has played in the Commonwealth Games earlier. Reeth di (Rishya), Sreeja (Akula) and I are playing for the first time. It’s going to be a new experience for all of us,” Diya said on the sidelines of a felicitation function organized by Khar Gymkhana, her alma mater.

Diya was felicitated by legendary paddler Kamlesh Mehta, in presence of former India hockey captain Viren Rasquinha and the Gymkhana president Vivek Devnani.

After being left out of the provisional squad, it was only after a writ petition was filed in the Bombay High Court that the Delhi HC-appointed Committee of Administrators — appointed to run the Table Tennis Federation of India — decided to include Diya in the women’s squad.

Diya, who had set an initial target of 2022 Commonwealth Games ever since she started playing professionally, admitted that it wasn’t easy to focus on her training in Germany when the provisional squad was announced.

“When the team was announced first, I was really disappointed. There was a bit of doubt as to whatever I did was worth it. But then my entire support structure — my parents, my coaches led by Sachin (Shetty) sir — told me that I had to keep pushing myself and be focused on the game. If not this time, then definitely next time. I am glad it’s paid off this time around,” she said.

Diya admits that her parents — Parag and Reshma – were instrumental along with her personal coach Sachin in her not drifting from her training programme in Germany. Having set the controversy aside, Diya has already set her targets on and off the table in Birmingham.

“I hope to go there and not only look at the top table tennis players, but also other disciplines. P.V. Sindhu has been my idol and I hope to meet her, if I get a chance to talk to her, and see the way the top players handle themselves. It’s definitely going to be a very big learning experience for me and it’ll definitely help me in the future,” she said.

Being the fourth member of the squad, she is set to be involved in the team championship and in women’s doubles along with star paddler Manika. While Manika didn’t attend last week’s preparatory camp in Porto, Diya is looking forward to teaming up with the defending singles champion.

“Never practised with Manika before. But she has been playing amazingly well in the last few years. I am definitely looking forward to pairing with her and learning from her,” she said.

Source: The Hindu