The creme-de-la-creme of Indian table tennis, led by Tamil Nadu’s Achanta Sharath Kamal, ranked 43rd in the world, and G. Sathiyan, World NO 37, and Delhi’s Manika Batra, will be the star attractions in the initial phase of the 36th National Games, getting underway on Tuesday.
Local heroes Harmeet Desai, Manav Thakkar and Manush Shah, however, will hope to steal the show on the first two days, with hosts Gujarat being given the pride of place in the Men’s team event.
The golden trio of Indian table tennis — Sharath, Sathiyan and Manika — will enter the arena only on Thursday as their teams hadn’t qualified for the Games. They will begin as favourites for the individual titles.
“On paper, we have a very strong team but we need to live up to the seedings, especially as there are some very good teams," Gujarat captain Harmeet Desai was quoted as saying by the organisers in a release.
“This is also the first time that Manav Thakkar, Manush Shah and I will be playing together. Both are in good form and we can work out our combinations on the given day," he added during a press conference on the eve of the competition.
Gujarat, who are with fourth seeds Delhi, Haryana and Telangana in Group A, will fancy their chances, especially as Tamil Nadu is not in the fray. Second-seeded Maharashtra, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka are in Group B.
Among women, Maharashtra, boasting of Reeth Rishya, Diya Chitale and Shruti Amrute, have been seeded first. They will battle it out with third seeds Telangana, hosts Gujarat and Haryana in Group A before worrying about second-seeded West Bengal, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh in Group B.
Apart from picking up the first few medals in TT, Gujarat will be hoping to improve on their ninth-place finish in the 35th edition in Kerala. They have strong medal prospects in swimming, tennis, volleyball, athletics, triathlon and wrestling.
The State Government has done a fantastic job of preparing the venues for the Games in merely three months. The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports saw an opportunity to host the Games in this tiny window once the 2022 Asian Games got postponed.
“In the past, States had 3-4 years to prepare for the Games. But Gujarat has undertaken the task of hosting them in just three months thanks to infrastructure built over the years," Gujarat Sports Minister Harsh Sanghvi said while addressing students of the Veer Narmad South Gujarat University recently.
Men: 1. Gujarat, 2. Maharashtra, 3. West Bengal, 4. Delhi.
Women: 1. Maharashtra, 2. West Bengal, 3. Telangana, 4. Karnataka.
Group A: Gujarat, Delhi, Haryana, Telangana.
Group B: Maharashtra, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka.
Group A: Maharashtra, Telangana, Gujarat, Haryana,
Group B: West Bengal, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh.