Gujarat, the host of the 36th National Games, will be one of the favourites to bag the men’s team gold in the table tennis event which begins here on Tuesday.
In the absence of India’s top-ranked players in the world such as G. Sathiyan and Sharath Kamal, who will be competing only in the individual events as the Tami Nadu men’s team didn’t finish in the top eight in the Senior National championships, Gujarat will definitely fancy its chances.
In its ranks, it has established players in Harmeet Desai, Manush Shah and Manav Thakkar, who are ranked (domestic ranking) third, fourth and fifth in the order.
At a virtual press conference, Manush and Manav said they are aiming for a medal in quite a few events including men’s team, men’s singles and doubles.
“Led by Harmeet Desai bhaiya, we are really a strong team to win a medal in men's team. Considering my singles form, I’ve been playing well in the last few years–he is the highest ranked Indian paddler in the world at 113, there is a fair chance of gold in men’s team and singles as well,” said Manush, who will be playing with Ishaan Hingorani in the men’s doubles.
Manav said he is excited to play for the State in his home city for the first time in his debut National Games. “We have a fair chance to win a gold medal in the men's team,” he said. Manav said he hopes to win another gold medal in men’s doubles where he will partner Harmeet. “As a pair, we are ranked 27 in the world. I hope to win a gold,” added Manav.
Manush said Gujarat hosting the National Games is a proud moment for the State. “Playing in front of the home crowd is great. It is bound to create a major impact,” he said, while highlighting that the camp that the Gujarat State TT Association organised for the State team helped in fine-tuning the skills and improving communication among the players.
Manush and Manav said all the top eight teams (qualified from the Senior Nationals in Shillong) will be tough, but teams like Maharashtra, Bengal, Delhi will be strong. “We have a balanced team and can overcome all of them,” said Manush.
With the World table tennis championships beginning on Sept. 30 in Chengdu (China), how much will the matches played here have an impact? Manush replied that the Indian team would leave either on Sept. 25/26 to Chengdu so as to reach the city on time. The National Games will definitely be a good match practice for us," he said.