National Ranking Central Zone TT- Preview


National Ranking Central Zone TT- Preview

Big Four give a skip, but M-factor a big boost

Indore, September 25: It’s time once again for national paddlers in all categories to shake off the rust following a two-month layoff and indulge in big-time activity when the 11Even Sports National Ranking (Central Zone) Table Tennis Championships starts at the Abhay Prashal here from tomorrow.

With the Games monkey off their back, one would have thought that both A.Sharath Kamal and Soumyajit Ghosh would be in a better frame of mind to get down to serious business with a new beginning, keeping in mind the future international events. Alas, the two Indian representatives at the Rio Olympics have, yet again, chosen to skip the National Ranking championships here.

As if this is not enough, the third top men’s player and reigning national champion Anthony Amalraj and G. Sathiyan, next in line in terms of ranking, have also not entered, making the championships unique in recent times as the Big Four will not be seen in action.

However, this malady has been somewhat set right by two women players who were at Rio—national champion Manika Batra and Mouma Das—as they have entered and their presence here would certainly boost the morale of other players as well as the hosts, Madhya Pradesh Table Tennis Association (MPTTA), who had organized India Junior & Cadet Open, a global circuit event, a fortnight ago.

The two paddlers will have a good, but tough company, in players like K.Shamini, Pooja Sahasrabuddhe, Madhurika Patkar, Divya Deshpande and other up-and-coming Youth and junior players like Suthirtha Mukkherjee and Archana Kamath along with former national champion Paulomi Ghatak. They all realize the importance of competing in as many zonal events as possible because only the cumulative points, instead of the best three, would be taken into account for selection to Indian squads. The new system was introduced early this season from the North Zone meet at Chandigarh in June. In other words, no player can afford to relax or skip a tournament and expect to make it to the teams any longer.

But, somehow, all these rules and regulations have not made the senior players any wiser as they prefer playing overseas in leagues while giving an incessant miss to domestic events. Both Sharath and Soumyajit who did not participate in the first zonal, however, competed in the Institutional Championships at Jaipur but even there Ghosh conceded his match kicking up a row over the ball used in the premier event in July.

After the Rio debacle—all players exited in first round—the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) does realize and is all game for investing more on youngsters keeping the 2024 and, most importantly, the 2028 Olympics. This line of thinking by TTFI well supported by the Sports Authority of India means that all domestic events will give a plenty of opportunities to the fresh hopefuls in Cadet and Sub-Junior sections.

The existing Junior and Youth players, if they perform consistently, can expect themselves to be considered by TTFI for special and sustained training abroad and can come under its other schemes to help hone their skills and prepare for 2024. In between, there are major events like the Continental and Commonwealth Games which would give them the feel of big-stage participation, provided they maintain their track records and get selected.

All these are for the future. But, here at Indore, the temptation of close to Rs. 6 lakh prize money and ranking points is up for grabs. The top eight players in all sections can share the booty.

Ganeshan Neelakanta Iyer, who was chief referee at the Asian Juniors in Bangkok last week, will be the competition manager for the Central Zone with Anil Dubey as chief referee. He will be assisted by deputy referee A.S. Kler and a team 40 technical officials which include Blue Badge, International and National umpires. Ganeshan said that equipment for the event—tables, flooring and balls—will be supplied by Stag International.

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