Rackets were then of wood, cardboard or gut, surfaced sometimes by cork, sandpaper or webbing; balls of cork or rubber; nets of different height and tables varying in size. The rival would be organizers had also their own systems of play and scoring.
The import of the toy celluloid balls from the US - and the ping pong sound they produced when struck by the long handled hollow vellum rackets - was a welcome development. The game leaped to the status of a turn-of-the-century fashionable craze.
In 1902 the invention of pimpled rubber as a racket surface, and the resulting control of spin and speed, produced a minor boom in Central Europe as well. And in 1922, following the First World War, some English veterans and newcomers - among them J.J. Payne Percival Bromfield and Ivor Montagu - drew up a carefully considered code of laws of play, which soon became generally accepted.
The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) was founded in 1926, with a few playing modifications in the Code. England, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Wales and, from outside Europe, only India took part in the deliberations. The present ITTF membership comprises 130 countries, including 37 from Asia. Pakistan was granted affiliation in 1951-52.
The world championships, also dating back to 1926, remained the exclusive domain of the Europeans for nearly 25 years, until England\'s two-time winner of the men\'s title, J. Leach, made room for H. Satoh of Japan in 1952.
Before Leach, Hungary\'s R. Jacobi, Z. Mechlovits, G.V. Barna, M. Szabados and F. Sido, England\'s F.J. Perry and R. Bergmann, and Czechoslovakia\'s S. Kolar and B. Vana held the title, the greatest of them all being Barna who won it five times, four in a row, between 1930 and 1935. Bergmann, an Austrian by birth, had the longest spell, spread over 13 years, during which he was crowned four times.
In the women\'s section, Romania\'s A. Rozeanu delayed the arrival of an Asian Champion with her consistency in winning the titles. She took part in six world championships, without failing, completed her second hat-trick of the titles at the age of 34 and left behind her a glorious trail for I. Okawa, of Japan, to follow in the 1956 championships.
Among the forerunners, Hungary\'s M. Mednyanszky stood out. She was the first to wear the crown which she retained in the next four championships. Compatriots A. Sipos and G. Farkas, Czechoslovakia’s M. Kettnerova and V. Depetrisova, American R. H. Aarons and G. Pritzi of Austria, were the other European winners of the women\'s singles title.
From Asia, the Japanese continued to make their presence felt until China emerged, in 1961 as the potent force and successfully staked its claim to the men\'s team and individual trophies. Chuang Tse-tung led the Chinese assault which remained unmatched in the next two world championships. At Ljubljana (1965) China also added the women\'s team title to their credit.
But Japan came back with a bang two years later and except for the men\'s doubles, carried everything before them in Stockholm.
Indeed, the founding of the Asian Table Tennis Union (ATTU) in May 1972 by 16 countries - one of them Pakistan - gave further flip to the game in the region. While, on one hand, it helped sustain the pace of progress in China and Japan; on the other, it brought many other nations, particularly Democratic People\'s Republic of Korea, in fighting line for top honours.
For Pakistan players the ATTU has proved no less a boon. They gained confidence and were able to give improved performance in both the world and Asian Championships. They went up a category in world ratings and rose to finish sixth in Asia. Farjad Saif, Arif Khan and Nazo Shakoor figure in the draws for the 4th Asia Cup, being played in Karachi from November 25.
They are certainly the flag-bearers of Pakistan table tennis.
(Contributed by the Chairman, Organising Committee Asian Cup Table Tennis Tournament, Karachi).
Pakistan Post Office is issuing a special postage stamp of Rs. 2.00 denomination on November 25, 1986 to focus attention on the game of Table Tennis and the distinction Pakistan Holds in this field.