Achanta Sharath confirms to participate in Senior National TT C'ships

Achanta Sharath Kamal will make appearance in the 77th Senior National and Inter-State Table Tennis ChampionshipsHyderabad: The cat and mouse game is, more or less, over. And, finally, Achanta Sharath Kamal will make in two years his ‘maiden’ appearance in the 77th Senior National and Inter-State Table Tennis Championships, beginning at the Kotla Vijay Bhaskara Reddy Indoor Stadium from tomorrow.

It’s very good news for all his colleagues in the Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB), those who follow him avidly in the country and the sport itself. That is the kind of aura Sharath’s presence can induce to this edition, apart from charging the normally-somber mood of spectators in the stadium.

Sharath had last played the senior nationals at Patna. In fact, 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.

PSPB, the men’s team title holders, has received a shot in the arm and Sharath is the value addition to the formidable unit that already has national champion Soumyajit Ghosh, Anthony Amalraj, Harmeet Desai and G. Sathiyan in it. In other words, the combination makes a very heady cocktail for any opposition in fray here.

It is the kind of solidity which most teams dream about. However hard they try, none of the 31 teams in fray can snatch from PSPB’s grip the Barna Ballack Cup which has been theirs for several years in a row.

Even their women team members 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 in their ranks, it will be difficult for others to close in on it.

Yet, this edition can ring in changes and for the better. With quite a lot of players unable to turn out for their institutional teams, most of them have opted to play for their states. This portends a nice, gentle message to even the mightiest PSPB that keep a watch on their performance.

West Bengal has a nice mix of youth players 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, has Sushmit Sriram, Nikhil Suresh and Anandh Raj Rajan. Even Rajasthan, winners of Youth team title this season, has Abhishek Yadav, Sudhanshur Grover, Pankaj Vishwakarma and Vivek Bhargava. Mind you, the first two named are PSPB players but don’t come in the top-five rankings and hence they are appearing for Rajasthan.

The case is, more or less, similar in the women’s team affairs. West Bengal has put up a strong team with the likes of Mousi Paul, Ayhika Mukherjee, Krittwika Sinha Roy and the 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 for right company. The North Bengal, too, has managed to pull Takeme Sarkar with Sukanya Bose, Sagarika Mukherjee and Anuska Dutta—all good youth players and could become the bugbear of some top teams.

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 in-form youngsters like Varuni Jaiswal, Naina and Sreeja Akula the hosts can expect some kind of an improvement in team showing. However, Andhra will continue to bear the brunt and would like to bet their last penny on Shailu Noorbasha to help them.

So, as for team championships in both sections, one may not see a miracle happening as yet with PSPB teams determined to give their best shots at the titles—the finals scheduled for Friday. However, one will definitely see authentic thrillers in the 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.

According to Competition Manager Ganeshan Neelakanta Iyer, STAG equipment—flooring, table and white balls—will be put to use in the championships. A.S. Kler will be the chief referee for the championships and he will be assisted by three deputies—T.G, Upadhya, MJS Dileep Kumar and A. Satheese. They will all have the support of 45 other technical officials, including Blue Badge, international and national umpires.

Teams have been divided into eight group based on last year's performance and only two teams qualify for the second stage, the knockout, from each group.
The matches begin at 10 a.m. with the formal inauguration slated for 4 p.m. The chief guest at the opening ceremony will be Bandaru Dattatreya, Union Minister for Labour and Employment and also the chairman of the Organising Committee. Padma Rao, Hon’ble Minister for Excise and vice-chairman of the Organising Committee and K. Kavitha, Member of Parliament, will be the guests of honour.