Paris Olympics: Sharath and Manika to lead squads in Paris

Achanta Sharath Kamal in actionNew Delhi: Multiple CWG medallist A. Sharath Kamal and world No. 24 Manika Batra will spearhead the team events of Indian men and women challenges, respectively, at the July-August Paris Olympics in what will be the first-ever participation of our squads at the Games.

The senior selection committee of the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI), which met here today, picked a six-member squad (three in each section) as per the Olympics norms, besides naming the individuals who would compete in the singles events.

Achanta Sharath Kamal, Harmeet Desai, and Manav Thakkar will form the three-member men’s team, while Manika Batra, Sreeja Akula and Archana Kamath will be squad members in the women’s category.

The “Alternate Player” in each section would be G. Sathiyan and Ayhika Mukherjee.

In the men's singles, Sharath and Harmeet will compete and it will be Manika and Sreeja in the women's event.

Since the selection of the squads and the individuals were as per the already pronounced TTFI criteria, three players "got selected themselves" because of their consistent performances over time and world rankings.

However, there was a debate over the third player for the women's squad. After Manika and Sreeja Akula walked in on the back of their higher world rankings (top 50), Archana Kamath made it to the team as the third player. The Bengaluru paddler edged Ayhika Mukherjee out as the former scored over the latter on several counts, including her world ranking (No.103), 33 places ahead of Ayhika.

As for the men, Sharath picked himself as the top-ranked Indian at No. 40, while Hareemt (No. 63) and Manav (No. 62) were separated by one slot in WR. Though both made it to the team composition, National champion Harmeet got the selectors' nod based on his international (better win-loss proportion to his participation) and national performances.

Incidentally, Massimo Costantini’s presence as a special invitee at the meeting also added teeth as the foreign expert’s inputs proved handy in the selection of the squads.

The teams:

Men: A. Sharath Kamal, Harmeet Desai, and Manav Thakkar.

Alternate Player: G. Sathiyan.

Women: Manika Batra, Sreeja Akula, and Archana Kamath.

Alternate Player: Ayhika Mukherjee.