Bengal's blues

The three-way split of the talent pool of Bengal has affected the development of the sport, what with constant poaching and behind the scene politics.

S. SABANAYAKAN

Soumyadeep Roy (PSPB) who captured the men's singles title, defeating defending champion Subhajit Saha.-SUSHANTA PATRONOBISH

THE emergence of talent from South India, especially Tamil Nadu, was in stark contrast to the dying standards in Bengal. Concerted efforts made by the coaches to shore up the talent pool in Tamil Nadu were evident during the just concluded National Ranking Table Tennis Championship (East) organised at the SAI, Eastern Centre, Kolkata. Out of the five finals three featured Tamil Nadu players, who won two of the titles. R. S. Raja lost in the semifinals of the junior boys section, while junior girl N. Satyabama stumbled in the final.

On the other hand, Bengal, which ruled the roost in age group championships not very long ago, plunged further. From one association, the Bengal Table Tennis Association, there emerged the splinter group, the West Bengal Table Tennis Association, with the tacit support of the Table Tennis Federation of India. The National association has now helped a third body, called North Bengal Table Tennis Association, to emerge by encouraging former National champion Mantu Ghosh, who is one of the joint secretaries of the TTFI. The three-way split of the talent pool of Bengal has affected the development of the sport, what with constant poaching and behind the scene politics.

The championship, co-organised by the West Bengal TTA and Centre of Excellence, a SAI-TTFI project, enabled Kumerasan Shamini to win her second zonal singles title, after the Southern Open in Thiruvananthapuram earlier in 2005. The tall 17-year-old pokerfaced B.Com student from M. O. P. Vaishnav College, Chennai, could have had her third title in her first season in the senior rank, but lost to Poulami Ghatak in the semifinals of the Northern Open in New Delhi.

Kumaresan Shamini with her second zonal singles title, following her triumph at the Southern Open in Thiruvananthapuram-SUSHANTA PATRONOBISH

Soumyadeep Roy of PSPB, however, was supreme in the men's singles, taming the reigning champion Subhajit Saha after recovering from two games down. Both the men's and women's singles lacked the competitive edge with the winners dominating the show completely. The junior boys' singles final between two cadets from the PSPB Academy, Aman Balgu and Devesh Karia, was the only clash that went the distance. Balgu won the contest 4-3.

Despite N. Satyabama's defeat in the junior girls' singles final, Tamil Nadu had something to shout about. The state has an exciting prospect in Gnanasekaran Sathiyan, who won the sub-junior boys title. The 12-year-old Class VIII student of Kolaperumal Chetty Vaishnav Senior Secondary School (Arumbakkam), Chennai, displayed a free flowing and attractive brand of table tennis to bamboozle the current National champion and top seed Soumyajit Ghosh of North Bengal by four games to one. A student of B. V. Chandrasekhar and M. S. Ashok Kumar, Sathiyan had won the North Zone in New Delhi, beating V. Nitin of PSPB `A'.

For Sathiyan the title triumph in Kolkata was a sweet revenge against Soumyajit, to whom he had lost in the quarterfinals of the Chennai Nationals. Top seed Ankita Das claimed the sub-junior girls title, stopping Shruthi Talnikar of Maharashtra in four games.

The other youngster to steal the show was women's singles runner-up Soumi Mondal. The 15-year-old stopped top seed Poulami Ghatak in the quarterfinals and downed J. Swarna, the conqueror of fourth seed Mantu Ghosh, in the semifinals. Soumi, who idolises Poulami, could be the next star from the fragmented Bengal table tennis.

The results

Men's singles final: Soumyadeep Roy (PSPB) bt Subhajit Saha (PSPB) 5-11, 3-11, 14-12, 11-5, 11-8, 11-6. Semifinals: Roy bt Shibaji Dutta (PSPB) 11-9, 11-5, 13-11, 11-7; Saha bt Anal Kashyap (PSPB) 12-14, 11-6, 9-11, 14-12, 13-11, 11-4.

Women's singles final: K. Shamini (TN) bt Soumi Mondal (WB) 11-9, 11-8, 12-10, 11-8. Semifinals: Soumi bt J. Swarna (TN) 11-7, 11-9, 11-4, 11-6; Shamini bt Mouma Das (PSPB) 11-6, 11-8, 7-11, 11-7, 11-9.

Junior boys final: Aman Balgu (PSPB `A') bt Devesh Karia (PSPB `A') 8-11, 11-7, 11-9, 12-10, 7-11, 6-11, 12-10. Semifinals: Balgu bt Mohit Verma (PSPB `A') 11-4, 6-11, 11-9, 11-9, 12-10; Karia bt R. S. Raja (TN) 11-8, 12-10, 11-9,11-9.

Junior girls final: Divya Deshpandey (Mah) bt N. Satyabama (TN) 11-9, 6-11, 12-10, 11-8, 11-5. Semifinals: Satyabama bt Prajakta Tipale (Mah) 11-5, 11-5, 11-5, 11-5; Divya bt Pallavi Kundu (Rly) 7-11, 12-10, 11-4, 6-11, 12-10, 11-7.

Sub-junior boys final: G. Sathiyan (TN) bt Soumyajit Ghosh (NB) 11-4, 11-7, 11-5, 9-11, 11-9. Semifinals: Soumyajit bt Harmeet Desai (Guj) 11-6, 11-3, 13-11, 11-7; Sathiyan bt Mohit Verma (PSPB `A') 11-6, 8-11, 11-8, 12-14, 11-5, 11-3.

Sub-junior girls final: Ankita Das (NB) bt Shruthi Talnikar (Mah) 11-7, 11-6, 11-5, 11-7. Semifinals: Ankita bt S. Sahana (Kar) 11-6, 11-8, 11-8, 11-6; Shruthi bt Samayata Mondal (Ben) 11-13, 1-8, 7-11, 11-7, 12-10, 11-6.