Jammu: The 81st UTT Junior and Youth Nationals getting underway from tomorrow at the newly-constructed M.A. Stadium guarantees an interesting as well as intense fight among teams for superiority to get to the top of the medal podium in all the four sections.
Unlike in the last edition, where the Junior Boys and Junior Girls of Delhi and Maharashtra were runaway winners, this year they will have to really wage a bigger and smarter battle with teams from states like Tamil Nadu and Mizoram (in Boys category) and Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka (in Girls section), thanks to the exploits of their paddlers throughout the season.
Last year, Haryana and Maharashtra emerged champions in Youth Boys and Youth Girls, respectively, but the emergence of Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB), the winners at the recently-concluded Institutional Championships at Ajmer, could pose real threats to the existence of title-holders.
As many as 31 states in Junior Boys and 28 in Junior Girls, 30 in Youth Boys and 29 in Youth Girls are participating and this means the number of players that have congregated for the seven-day championships total over 540, making it one of the biggest in recent times.
All teams in the four sections will be divided into eight groups of three and four each with top eight leading squads expected to go through to the next stage, barring a hiccup or two. However, the actual clash among the aspirants and also-rans would be to take the second spot in each of the groups as two teams qualify for the second stage, to be played on a knockout basis.
The team events will be for the first four days with the finals slated for December 5. A section of individuals’ qualifications, though begins on the fourth day itself, it will reach the crescendo in the last two days, making the proposition worth a while as Rs. 5.67 lakh in prize money are to be won, with winners in Youth Boys and Youth Girls taking home Rs. 66,000 and Rs. 57,200, respectively. The incentive for Junior Boys winner (Rs 55,000) and Junior Girls (Rs. 48,400) would equally act as a trigger for top-ranked players to go all out.
As per current national ranking, Anusha Kutumbale from Madhya Pradesh and Yashaswini Ghorpade from Karnataka are the top-most Junior Girls. But it won’t be a cakewalk for both as there are several other contenders from other states, especially Maharashtra, Telangana and Delhi.
Similarly, Vishwa Deenadayalan of Tamil Nadu, who won three of the five zonal titles this season, starts as the favourite to claim the Junior Boys crown. But he cannot be complacent as paddlers like Payas Jain from Delhi, Jeho from Mizoram and a few others from Maharashtra and Gujarat would be vying with one another to pull Vishwa down.
If Haryana’s Jeet Chandra had been in an excellent form this season in Youth Boys, so can be the case with Prapti Sen from West Bengal. They will be put to some real test during the individual events.
The huge hall at the MA Stadium provides the competition department to being the proceedings with 17 Stag Americas table and flooring during team events and 20 tables for individual events, which include doubles in both sections. DHS balls will be used throughout the tournament.
According to competition manager, N. Ganeshan, A.S. Kler will be referee for the championships with assistance coming from deputy T.G. Upadhaya. They will be supported by a battery of 50 Blue Badge, international and national umpires.
The championships are organized by the Jammu and Kashmir Table Tennis Association with the supporting hand lent by the UT’s Sports Council.