Event Section
PSPB paddlers gear up for team titles


Shillong, April 17: The women’s squad of the Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB), bolstered by the return of Manika Batra, would look to redeem itself during the team events of the 83rd Senior National and Inter-State Table Tennis Championships getting underway at the SAI Training Centre from tomorrow.


The women’s team lifted the Jayalakshmi Cup last in the 2017 Nationals held at Ranchi, and at that time, Manika Batra was the youngest of the five-member squad. In the subsequent edition, held at Cuttack, the PSPB women finished runners-up behind West Bengal, but when the paddler skipped the Hyderabad Nationals, they had to contend with the bronze medal.


Now with Manika leading the squad, one expects the PSPB to bounce back. In their endeavour, Manika will rely on Archana Kamath, Reeth Rishya, Krittwika Sinhay Roy and Madhurika Patkar. The PSPB’s strength lies in the three national champions—Manika, Archana and Madhurika Patkar. Reeth and Krittwika, especially the former’s form, will also add teeth to their Cup campaign.  


But they will be wary of the young brigade from the Railways Sports Promotion Board (RSPB), the title holders. Led by Takeme Sarkar, the RSPB can topple the best in business with adequate support from Prapti Sen, Sutirtha Mukherjee, a former national champion, Shruti Amrute and experienced Sagarika Mukherjee.


However, Bengal A, the runners-up at Hyderabad, and Maharashtra A will be breathing down their necks. Maharashtra, led by Diya Chitale, has capable paddlers like Swastika Ghosh, and Anannya Basak, besides Vidhi Shah and Risha Mirchandani. And teams like Delhi, Telangana and the two outfits from Tamil Nadu could be the dark horses.


In the men’s team championship, PSPB is the team to beat. But it is easier said than done. The squad, with the creamy layer of paddlers in A. Sharath Kamal, G. Sathiyan, Harmeet Desai, Sanil Shetty and Manav Thakkar, are the firm favourites to retain the Barna Bellack Cup. But runners-up Delhi, Telangana, Gujarat, Bengal and Maharashtra have a young and experienced bunch of players to counter the PSPB’s threats and, on their day, can pose tough questions.


For the first time, 38 men’s and 35 women’s teams have entered the fray, making it the biggest Nationals so far. Similarly, the draws for the team events, singles and the doubles that took place in New Delhi on April 6 were done electronically, also another first in the history of table tennis.


During the eight-day championships, 16 Stag Americas tables and Stag balls will be used and the team finals will take place on April 20, according to competition manager N. Ganeshan. The referee for the championships, he said, will be A.S. Kler and he will have the support of a host of technical officials.


The championships will be formally inaugurated by the Meghalaya Assembly Speaker Metbah Lyngdoh tomorrow afternoon.