Prodigal son Sharath’s return adds zing to South Zone Championships
Visakhapatnam, October 19: The return of the prodigal son—A. Saharath Kamal—to the domestic circuit, especially for the 11Even Sports National Ranking (South Zone) Table Tennis Championships starting at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium at the VPT Sports Complex tomorrow, is the best thing advertisement that can happen to the sport. Incidentally, this will be first zonal meet that the Rio Olympian will be competing in, this season.
Yet, there is still a drawback as top-ranked Indian in the world, Soumyajit Ghosh, and North Zone champion Anthony Amalraj have given another goby to the ranking championships.
However, the presence of Sharath has given the Vizag organizers, who are hosting a national ranking event after 28 years, a big shot in the arm and one expects the crowd to rally behind them as well as Sharath to enjoy his ‘rare’ home appearance. Even his old and friendly Coach Massimo Costantini, who took charge as the national coach on October 1, will be looking forward to the icon’s performance.
With Sharath in the thick of action, it would add the zing that was missing from the men’s singles so far. Of course, G. Sathiyan who won his season’s first title at Rajkot just a week ago will have his task cut out as Sanil Shetty, Jubin Kumar of PSPB and Gujarat’s Devesh Karia, who was a finalist at Rajkot, will also be at his throat.
All said and done, Sharath return also augurs well as the standard of competition will go a few notches higher as one has seen in the women’s singles. Suthirtha, already with three silverwares this season, will give her best shot as the likes of Manika Batra, Madhurika Patkar and Pooja Sahasrabudde have found out to their chagrin. It has been big struggle for former national champions like Mouma Das and K. Shamini. However, it was heart warning to see Poulomi Ghatak, another former national champion, put up a brave front trying to make a comeback in recent times.
Another good thing of these ranking events is that one gets to see a lot of youngsters—the future of India—doing consistently well. Manav Thakkar, Ananth Devarajan, Ronit Bhanja, Birdie Boro and Snehit Suravajjula in Youth and Junior Boys sections and Archana Kamath, Anusha Kutumbale, Varuni Jaiswal, Moumita Datta and Prapti Sen, to name a few, in Girls category have been working hard as the results are proving.
Even in the Sub-Junior and Cadet sections, the boys and girls have shown a lot of promise and it is indicative of the sport growing, though not by leaps and bounds, and getting ready to reap a good harvest in the coming years. The Italian coach has already a good collection of players on his I-Pad, chosen from the Central and West Zone events, and he would like to add a few more names to the list after watching players at the South Zone. The opportunity beckons young paddlers and it is up to them to utilize it and be rest assured of the rewards. The ball is in their court.
Meanwhile, Competition Manager Ganeshan Neelakanta Iyer said that C.L. Thade has been nominated as the chief referee for the competitions here with assistance coming from a team 45 technical officials that include deputy and assistance referees, Blue Badge, International and National umpires.
Equipment from Stag—flooring, tables and balls—will be used for the championships which are organized by the Visakhapatnam District Table Tennis Association and conducted by the Andhra Pradesh State Table Tennis Association.
The Championships, which will be inaugurated by Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, has received 1100 entries from among 731 paddlers.