North Zone TT C'ships: Rio-bound Manika, Mouma major attraction of season opener

manika batra 26Chandigarh: The new season for table tennis in the country will be unique in more ways than one. Making a departure from the past, it will begin with a zonal event rather than the usual Inter-Institutional Championships; there will be a real-time scoring of all matches for the first time in addition to the live streaming on YouTube of all show-court matches and, above all, the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) has found a worthy sponsors in 11Even Sports, a Mumbai-based event management company, with which it has signed a 10-year deal.

As if this is not enough, the 11Even Sports National Ranking (North Zone) Table Tennis Championships, kicking off at the Panjab University Gymnasium Indoor Hall from tomorrow, will witness close to 900 participants making it one of the largest with 1300 entries for a season opener in different categories—Cadet, Sub-Junior, Junior, Youth and Senior. Though the championships are hosted by Haryana Table Tennis Association, the Chandigarh Table Tennis Association has also pitched in its might to help support in the organization.

But the major attraction for the paddlers from the new season will be the points they earn in the zonals as the cumulative point will only count instead of the best three until last season for selection into various Indian squads. In other words, no player can afford to relax or skip a tournament or two and expect to make it to the teams any longer.

Similarly, the importance of a zonal event is never lost on players that belong to the top echelons. For instance, both Rio-bound women’s top players—Manika Batra and Mouma Das—will be vying with one another to express themselves even as they prepare for the Olympics. Of course, they will get yet another chance in the AAI Inter-Institutional Championships at Jaipur next month before taking the flight to Rio. However, both the male players—A. Sharath Kamal and Soumyajit Ghosh—have preferred to continue with their practice in Germany and Sweden for the Games. But they are expected to participate in the Jaipur event in July.

The season also brings in with it several new hopes as there are quite a lot of newcomers who will be making their entry in the Cadet sections as the fresh registrations at the national level in the sport indicate. Apart from the battle-scarred veterans and those making their mark in men and women’s sections, the Youth and Junior that have matured to give a good shot at the titles on offer will add to the glitter.

Quite a few transfers in the new season will add teeth and bite as they could strengthen a few states to plan their future squads well ahead of the nationals later this year. All in all, the North Zone promises a lot for those who are willing to work hard.

Of course, the lure of prize purse close to Rs. 6 lakh a nice bonus for the diligent job those players will put in to reach at least the quarterfinals with only the top eight players coming in contention for the cash prize in each section.

Veteran Ganeshan Neelakanta Iyer, the competition manager for the championships, said that Anil Dubey will be the chief referee for the championships and he will be assisted by deputy referees A.S. Kler and N. K. Lahiry. Their teams comprise 40 technical officials including Blue Badge, International and National umpires. Ganeshan also added that equipment for the event—tables, flooring and balls—will be supplied by Stag International.