CWG: Doubles dilemma for India after Ghosh suspension

“Previously, it had been planned that either Sharath or Sathiyan will play two singles matches, and the one who doesn’t is to pair up with Ghosh for the doubles," Sathiyan's coach Raman said.

Sathiyan said India was sending its best-ever India squad to the Commonwealth Games.   -  M. Vedhan

G. Sathiyan, the 25-year old Tamil Nadu paddler, is in the best phase of his playing career, said his coach Raman on Monday. “The past one year has been the best year for me,” said the player himself.

He has won four medals in the men's doubles, the Spanish Open singles title, was undefeated in the Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) league, and reached the pre-quarterfinals of the Qatar Open. From World No. 119, he is now ranked 49 in men’s singles. He reckoned he might move further up in the April rankings.

All this augurs well, as he’ll be Australia-bound on March 30 (tentative), with the National table tennis squad, for the Commonwealth Games (CWG). He said the team had a near two-week camp in February in Portugal, where they trained with foreign players – from Portugal, Argentina, Paraguay, and Nigeria. “Quadri Aruna was there, for instance.”

Sharath: Ghosh's suspension has 'hit' the team members

With Soumyajit Ghosh, facing a rape allegation, dropped from the squad, Sharath Kamal and Sathiyan will have to bear the major responsibility, said Raman. Harmeet Desai and A. Amalraj are the other men in the squad.

“It’s a big loss for the team, but we have to recoup, focus on the task at hand, and hopefully do well,” Sathiyan said of Ghosh’s absence.

“The Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) is pushing for Sanil Shetty (who also attended the Portugal camp) to be included. But there’s a rule that only an injured or sick player may be replaced,” he added.

READ: Sharath Kamal eyes a repeat at Gold Coast CWG

India’s three entries for the men’s singles are Sharath Kamal, Sathiyan, and Harmeet Desai.

Sathiyan said this is probably the best India squad, with the best possible preparation, to enter CWG.  Raman said “a singles bronze is expected” of his ward, and that “a silver is highly probable.”

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Sathiyan expected India to be seeded in the top two for the men’s team event, and in the top four for the men’s singles and doubles events.

Raman was also optimistic of the medal chances for the Sharath-Sathiyan pair in the men’s doubles event.

“We complement each other well. Sharath is the hard-hitting, power-stroking player away from the table, and I set him up with good angles and openings from close to the table,” said Sathiyan.

“We stand a good chance of winning gold in the team event,” said Raman. “England, Singapore, and Nigeria will pose a tough challenge in the team event,” said Sathiyan.

There will be five matches – four singles, and a doubles – to a tie in the team event.

One player is allowed to play two singles matches, but he cannot play the doubles match then.

With Ghosh out, India now has to play a new doubles pair as opposed to the planned one, said Raman. “Previously, it had been planned that either Sharath or Sathiyan will play two singles matches, and the one who doesn’t is to pair up with Ghosh for the doubles. It changes now, and it's quite tricky.”