Hyderabad, Jan 4 (IANS) Achanta Sharath Kamal will make, in two years, his maiden appearance at the 77th National and Inter-State Table Tennis Championships, beginning at the Kotla Vijay Bhaskara Reddy Indoor Stadium here on Tuesday. It’s good news for his colleagues in Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB).
Sharath last played the nationals at Patna. He had even skipped the Inter-Institutional championships because of his commitments abroad. Then injury prevented him from competing in major international events, including the Commonwealth Championships at Surat last month. Sharath is a value addition to the men’s team title holders that already have with them national champion Soumyajit Ghosh, Anthony Amalraj, Harmeet Desai and G. Sathiyan.
However hard they try, none of the 31 teams in fray can snatch from the PSPB’s grip the Barna Ballack Cup which has been theirs for several years in a row. Even their women are likely to keep a tight hold on the Jayalakshmi Cup, which they lost momentarily at Raipur a few years ago before regaining it. With Manika Batra, Mouma Das, Ankita Das, K. Shamini and Pooja Sahasrabudhe, it will be difficult for others to close in.
Yet, this edition can ring in changes. West Bengal have a nice mix of youth in Anirban Ghosh, Arjun Ghosh and Rohnit Bhanja. So do Railways — a highly-talented Ravindra Kotiyan, Anirban Nandi and Souvik Kar, and Tamil Nadu — bolstered by the return of R. Abhishek, and having Sushmit Sriram, Nikhil Suresh and Anandh Raj Rajan. Even Rajasthan, winners of Youth team title this season, have Abhishek Yadav, Sudhanshur Grover, Pankaj Vishwakarma and Vivek Bhargava.
The first two named are PSPB players but don’t come in the top-five rankings and hence appear for Rajasthan. The case is, more or less, similar with women’s teams. West Bengal have put up a strong team with the likes of Mousi Paul, Ayhika Mukherjee, Krittwika Sinha Roy and Railways veteran Anindita Chakraborty. With their institutions not having qualified, they have preferred to play for the state. One cannot discount Maharashtra’s A team, led by Divya Deshpande and Madhurika Patkar.
They have two youngsters in Senhora D’Souza and Charvi Kawle. North Bengal, too, have managed to pull Takeme Sarkar with Sukanya Bose, Sagarika Mukherjee and Anuska Dutta – all good young players. The split of Andhra and Telangana may not have done any good to both teams in the previous edition, but with experienced Nikhat Banu and youngsters like Varuni Jaiswal, Naina and Sreeja Akula, Telanagana can expect some kind of an improvement.
However, Andhra Pradesh will continue to bear the brunt and would like to bet their last penny on Shailu Noorbasha. As for team championships, one may not see a miracle as yet with PSPB determined to give their best at the titles with the finals scheduled for Friday. However, one will definitely see thrillers in singles events from the fourth day — the motivating factor being the Rs.9.58 lakh prize money, the coveted singles crowns and valuable ranking points. Teams have been divided into eight groups based on last year’s performance and only two teams qualify for the second stage, the knockouts, from each group.