Event Section
Paddlers to fight for team and individual superiority Delhi, WB, TN and Karnataka start favourites


Chandigarh, December 17: The 11Sports 80th Cadet and Sub-Junior National Table Tennis Championships, beginning at the Basketball Hall of Sector 42 Sports Complex from tomorrow, promise to be as refreshing as in the past editions, thanks to the fresh blood having been injected into the Cadet teams of participating states.


The Cadet events have always proved to be a tricky affair because the states have struggled to put up a balanced team in either section, having to make do with a couple of strong players. This has, more often than not, had backfired during knockout stages.


The West Bengal boys, led by Emon Adhikary and Oishik Ghosh, look really impressive as they shared three of the five ranking titles between them this season. They are No. 1 and No. 3 in ranking and are expected to take West Bengal closer to title, if not win it for them. Closely running them would be Karnataka, having Varun Kashyap, who is No. 8 in national ranking, as the main player with support coming from Abhinav Murthy and Hrishikesh Shetluur, a promising paddler.


Similarly, the West Bengal team starts as the favourites for Cadet Girls crown with Sayani Panda and Nandini Saha, the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked players, leading the charge. The two girls had met each other in three finals this season and Sayani bagged four crowns, except the South Zone title. In the final last year, Maharashtra edged past West Bengal and this year, too, they are expected to go through unhampered until the title round. Maharashtra’s fortunes are largely depended on Radhika Sakpal, who has had a fluctuating form, including the South Zone title coming her way.


However, Maharashtra was exceptional in the last edition as the state created history, winning three out of four titles. But a look at the teams’ composition this year does not present a happy picture because the ones that did the job in Goa have moved over, to the next category. Yet, they are in full force in the Boys and Girls sections and would want to retain at least one crown, if not more.


However, the situation is tailor-made for Delhi and Tamil Nadu, who along with Karnataka, West Bengal and PSPB, will exploit it to have a shot at the Sub-Junior Boys and Girls titles.


Delhi’s advantage is their two players—Payas Jain and Aadarsh Om Chetri—who, as the top ranked national players, can make a lot of difference to their fortunes. Similarly, Tamil Nadu’s Vishwa Deenadayalan, the No. 3 in national ranking, and Preyesh Raj Suresh, No. 6, have the talent and experience to challenge Delhi. As for Karnataka, they have K.J. Aakash and Sujan Bharadwaj, the No. 7 ranked player. And West Bengal will be relying on Raunak Roy, Ankur Bhattacharjee, both of whom are among the top 20 in national ranking.


But the biggest problem lies in putting up a winning doubles combination where most teams don’t get them right.  This, in effect, adds to the loads of singles players who with all their experience had wilted under pressure.


In Sub-Junior Girls, defending champions Maharashtra will solely depend on Pritha Vartikar, who is No. 4 in the national ranking chart. She will have to share most responsibility with support from three other players. But their second best, Arya Songadkar, is ranked No. 22! Their second team—Maharashtra B—is equally porous and cannot guarantee the state a title in the category. But a strong Karnataka could be the real challenger with Anargaya Manjunath, Yashaswini Ghorpade and G. Karuna in their ranks.


This is where Delhi and West Bengal seem to hold the edge. In fact, three Delhi players—Tamana Gulshan, Laksita Narang and Mannika Kesar—are among the top 10 in ranking with West Bengal’s Prithoki Chakraborty and Oishiki Joardar, considered their real challengers  Uttar Pradesh, led by Ambika Gupta, could be the dark horse and the squad has the ability to spring a surprise.


As for entries, there are 32 squads in Sub-Junior Boys and Girls while 30 in Cadet Boys and 28 in Cadet Girls. But apart from team superiority which will come to the fore in the first three days, the last three days of the nationals will witness paddlers vying with one another to win individual glory and prize money, nearly worth to Rs. 3 lakh.  


According to Competition Manager Ganeshan Neelakanta Iyer, 16 Stag tables will in use for the six-day championships with both GKI (Cadets) and Stag Supreme (Sub-Junior) balls being used Two veterans—A.S. Kler and T. G. Upadhya—will be referee and deputy referee who will be assisted by 50 odd  Blue Badge, international and national umpires.