Top paddlers for TT nationals

Last Updated: Sun, Jan 06, 2013 23:33 hrs

An unprecedented number of paddlers made have themselves available for honours of Senior National Table Tennis Championships, starting here at the Balbir Singh Juneja Indoor Stadium from Monday.

The nationals provide the best opportunity to teams on the fringe as well as those individual paddlers who look for permanent nests, to make a mark for themselves.

With a restriction placed on entries per team, this is the best opening for some of the regulars to get a look in. The teams have been divided into eight groups with PSPB men and Maharashtra A women getting the pride of place.

Being the first nationals for all disciplines beginning in the New Year, the championships offer the right buzz - 34 men's teams and 30 women's squads have confirmed entries-which other sports can emulate.

Similarly, there are lessons for lesser teams in fray here to learn.

Tearing a page from Team Maharashtra's book, they can pose questions on the monopoly of the Petroleum teams.

Last year, Maharashtra 'A' not only ended the PSPB domination in the women's semifinals, but went on to the claim the team championships in a most organized way.

No doubt, the PSPB team - with national champion Poulomi Ghatak, K. Shamini, Ankita Das, Madhurika Patkar and Pooja Sahasrabudhe - will come back with a vengeance to wrest the team title here, but they will be wary of Maharashtra and others.

However, it will be difficult for Maharashtra to repeat the Lucknow performance because Divya Dshpande and Mamata Prabhu will have to share much of the team's burden with some of their former state mates turning out for other teams.

It will also depend on how Prajakta Tipale performs for Maharashtra.

Indeed, Railways Sports Promotion Board (RSPB), who finished runners-up at the Kolkata Inter-Institutional championships last June, will be out to exact revenge from PSPB. The Railways have the resources to upset the best in business.

PSPB's men, on the other hand, have no such fears. They have been a force to reckon with for several years in a row and there will be no change in the script this time.

With the Who's Who of country's top paddlers - Sharath Kamal, Soumyajit Ghosh, A. Amal Raj, Sanil Shetty and Soumyadeep Roy - in their ranks, the rest are reduced to mere pretenders.

With all top-ranked players making their appearances for their teams, the meet is the best occasion for them to assess their strengths and weaknesses not only against one another but also collectively as a team.

Of course, in the men's section there will be teams like Gujarat (Harmeet Desai, Devesh Karia and Jignesh Jaiswal), Haryana (Jubin Kumar and Mohit Verma) and Tamil Nadu (Nithin Thiruvengadam) who can be the party spoilers.

Similarly, the Delhi's women team, spearheaded by Manika Batra and Neha Aggarwal, can pose serious challenges to many a team.

When the focus shifts to individual events from Wednesday, the rivalry among players will be even more intense as prize money will come into play.

The men's singles champion will receive Rs. 2,30,000 while the winner in women's category will carry home Rs. 1,45,000 from a total prize purse of Rs. 9,58,800, with the losing pre-quarterfinalists too getting their share.

Players like Subhajit Saha, G. Sathiyan and Sourav Chakraborty, who are not part of any team, will walk that extra mile to make most of the championships. For them the sky will be limit.

Incidentally, Chattisgarh Table Tennis Association is hosting the senior nationals for the first time and the enthusiasm of the organisers is palpable to make the championships a grand success.

The technical team, comprising 60 officials, is headed chief referee Anil Dubey who will be assisted by Satheese Attoor.

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