India's foreign table tennis coach Peter Engel says he expects three medals from his wards at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, two less than the record five the squad managed at home in Delhi four years ago.
Engel, who took charge last October, said his assessment is based on current form and the fact that India will not enjoy home support like last time.
"I am very happy with way the boys are shaping up. The women's players, as I have said in the past, need more foreign exposure to improve their game," Engel told PTI ahead of the 10-member squad's departure for Glasgow tomorrow.
The quadrennial Games remain India's favourite medal hunting ground as it continues to toil at the world and Asian level without much success. India produced their best ever CWG tally in 2010 winning a men's doubles gold (Sharath Kamal and Subhajit Saha), surprise women's team silver and three bronze. Engel is dwelling on the importance of home advantage but India's two gold medals in the racket sport came at Melbourne 2006 when Sharath won the singles title and played a pivotal role in the team's victorious campaign.
"I am not putting any pressure on the team by talking about the number of medals. I would be satisfied if they perform to their potential. I know last time India won five medals but you have to take into account that the players were backed by the home crowd, which they will miss in Glasgow," said the German coach.
Asked about the number of gold medals India can aim for, Engel said: "The colour doesn't matter to me. All I can say is that I am expecting at least three medals." The squad had a fruitful two weeks in Patiala, where it trained in the company of Sharath, who Engel says is still India's best player by a distance despite not winning the national title for the last three years.
"I have high expectations from Sharath. It was great to have him in the camp. Everyone looks upto him and and if he does well in Glasgow, it should inspire others to give that little extra needed for a special result," said Engel of the World No.44 who usually trains with his club teammates at Borussia Dusseldorf in Germany.
The Indian men's team flattered to deceive in the last edition, managing a bronze with main rivals Singapore and England winning the gold and silver respectively. Engel said the men have it in them to do better this time in both team and singles event.
Four out of the five are ranked in the top-200. "Though Sharath is our strongest player, I won't single out anyone. There is a saying in German that 'star is the team'.
"In Korea in June, Harmeet Desai was leading 3-1 against Singapore's Gao Ning (World No.12) before he went on to lose the next three and the match. He would have won had it been a best of five game affair, like it happens in team events. All the players are capable of surprising higher-ranked opponents."
Engel hinted that Sharath, Desai and Soumyajit Ghosh will play bulk of the matches in the team competition, which will see the introduction of doubles in the best of five tie.
The first two singles will be followed by a doubles rubber where either of the singles player team up with the third player.
"The new format will make things exciting. It doesn't allow you to have one dedicated doubles pairing. We will pick the combination for the third rubber depending on the opponents," said Engel.
Engel concluded by saying that the team would have been better off with a dedicated physio. While disciplines like hockey and badminton have dedicated physios, the paddlers will have to rely on common physios travelling with the Indian contingent. "What if my players will have to wait for a long time for physio's help. I will be worried if that happens," Engel added.