The Ultimate Table Tennis league, India's first league for the sport, is set to begin on July 13. The inaugural season will be played in three cities with Chennai and Delhi hosting the first two legs and Mumbai, the final leg.

Ahead of the start of the tourney, former national champion Arup Basak, who will be coaching Mumbai-based Maharashtra United, spoke to Sportstar about the league and the level of the sport in India.

“We, currently, have four Indians in the top-100 ITTF rankings and have three more who are waiting to break into the top-100. A league such as UTT is going to do great good for Indian table tennis. I think in the next five to six years, we will have at least 10-12 top players — we will be right at the top.”

The league will feature an equal mix of foreign and Indian coaches as well as players, thereby giving local players a chance to rub shoulders with seasoned professionals and pick up a thing or two from them. “The chance to mingle with foreign players and coaches will do our players a lot of good. It will help the Indians understand the level of competition and learn more about the players' techniques and quality of strokes. The chance to train with foreign coaches is a great opportunity for the youngsters,” said the former national coach.

“This initiative to start a league for the sport was very necessary. Senior players such as Sharath Kamal and Soumyajit Ghosh went abroad early in their careers and it helped them improve their game. UTT will allow local players to interact with international players and coaches and it is going to be very beneficial. It is going to be a massive confidence boost,” he said, while adding that the league should have been started earlier.

The league will be played in a best-of-three format, as opposed to the traditional best-of-five format. “The shorter format will make it more interesting. The games are going to be very intense as every point is going to be vital,” he opined.

“We already have quantity in India and now we need quality. Given the introduction of the league, I think table tennis will become very popular within the next 5-6 years and we will produce top-class players," he concluded, on an optimistic note.