Perils of Being an Inter-IIT Player

The Table Tennis GC was won by Hostel 2 this year, a feat which they accomplished by beating Hostel 12 in the finals. Business as usual, you may think, considering that they have the maximum number of Inter-IIT and Inter-IIT camp players. However, things were spiced up by last minute restrictions being imposed on the number of Inter-IIT players that could participate from each hostel, a change which left the favourites fuming, the competition salivating and gave us a GC to remember.

A brief overview of the format- In the past years, the TT GC was a free-for-all knockout tournament, wherein each player played for himself, not unlike Wimbledon. Points were awarded for clearing each round. However, this year, in order to promote team spirit over individual achievement, the format was changed. The hostels were divided into groups, (Davis cup style) and each hostel had to play 5 matches (Singles-S-Doubles-S-D) against each of the other hostels in the group. The top 2 teams from each group would qualify for the quarterfinals. These matches would be knockouts, wherein each hostel would again play 5 matches against the other (S-S-D-S-D), and the hostel which won 3 or more of the matches would progress.

Initially, the rule regarding inter IIT participation was to allow one player (who played at the 2010 Inter-IIT competition at IIT Delhi) to participate per team. This had been agreed to in the meeting with the sport Co’s. However, on the eve of the TT GC, the sport Co’s of the hostels which did not have inter-IIT players registered their protest against the new rule. They proposed that the restriction should be imposed on all players who had ever represented the institute in any Inter-IIT championship or reached the Inter-IIT camp. Their argument being that any Inter-IIT/camp player would inherently be better than a non-inter IIT/camp player, and would thus grossly disadvantage any hostel not having Inter-IIT players. They also stated that this would diminish the enthusiasm of their players, and argued that even sustained practice could not match the talent of an Inter-IIT player.

As 6 out of the 8 UG hostels teamed up against hostels 2 and 8 (the only UG hostels having more than 1 Inter-IIT/camp player), the GS Sport and the Insti TT secy were compelled to change the rule to – “In the 6 member team list to be submitted, a hostel can have a maximum of 2 Inter IIT/camp players who have ever attended Inter-IIT/camp. Out of these 2, the hostel may play only ONE PLAYER in one match while the other restricted player will have to be the non-playing 6th man. The playing Inter-IIT/camp player, however, may play ONE singles and ONE doubles match”
This rule change, imposed one night before the GC, was met with stiff opposition from hostels 2 and 8, as it virtually ensured that 2 of their best players would not get the opportunity to showcase their talent in the GC. Furthermore, this new rule completely overlooked the blurry boundaries between Inter-IIT/camp players and players who were almost as good as these, but had not qualified for the camp. Several players who were almost at the Inter-IIT level were allowed to play without any restriction, thereby severely hampering those hostels which had a couple of inter-IIT players, but could field only one of them due to the restrictions brought about by the ‘Inter-IIT/camp’ tag.

After the 1st day of play, it was evident that the invincibility of the Inter-IIT players had been grossly over-estimated, with Kshitij, a very good player, losing his doubles match. Based on the closeness of the matches, and the absence of a yawning gap in quality between the Inter-IIT/camp player and a normal player, the GS and The TT secy acquiesced to the new majority view of allowing a second Inter-IIT/camp player in the knockout rounds. This player could only play one doubles match, and not with the other Inter-IIT/camp player. This format was followed in the knockouts.

The last-minute restrictions had raised some pertinent questions regarding fairness, as, prima-facie it appeared that a player was being punished for being more gifted/ talented than the others by not being allowed to represent his hostel in the GC. Also, if someone had made the Inter-IIT camp but not further, and was not the best player in his hostel, his chances of competitive play would be severely depleted as he was not good enough for Inter-IIT and these rules forced him out of the GC.

This could have had serious repercussions in other sports, wherein hostels without Inter-IIT players could gang-up against those with Inter-IIT players to force rule changes in an attempt to provide equal opportunities’ to all. However, the GS Sport asserted that the only reason why these restrictions had been implemented was because of the radical changes in the format of the TT GC this year. He further assured that no such last-minute changes would be implemented in any other sport this year, other than water polo, swimming and athletics, where such a cap was already in place from before.

All in all, the GC was a huge success, with tremendous participation from all the hostels. The group format helped build team and hostel spirit, and unprecedented cheering squads were seen throughout the GC, till late at night. It also helped spice up the competition, with a few unheralded teams getting the better of established favourites, thereby increasing the excitement quotient; the only blight being the hasty implementation of a rule that hadn’t been given due thought.

Reporter: MANU SAHAY