ITTF’s Integrity Unit looking into Manika Batra's match-fixing allegation
TTFI's evidence could mean problem for Soumyadeep Roy, Sanmay Paranjape, Manika Batra and Sutirtha Mukherjee.
Manika could face the heat from the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Integrity Unit, known for its zero-tolerance policy in unethical matters.
Manika Batra’s allegations against table tennis coach Soumyadeep Roy that he pressurised her to lose to Sutirtha Mukherjee in the Olympic qualification match in Doha in March this year could backfire after her coach Sanmay Paranjape’s text message which contradicted the player's claim.
Manika, whose serious allegations against Roy led to a legal battle with the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) and a High Court-ordered inquiry by the Sports Ministry, could face the heat from the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Integrity Unit, known for its zero-tolerance policy in unethical matters.
It may be recalled that on March 18, Sutirtha defeated Manika and gained the South Asian Olympic quota. Manika, too, made the grade on the basis of her higher ranking. Had Manika won, Sutirtha’s qualification on ranking would have been doubtful.
Sutirtha Mukherjee, displays the winner's medal after clinching the women's singles titles in the 81st senior national and inter state table tennis championship in Hyderabad on February 02, 2020. Also seen at right her coach Soumyadeep Roy.
As part of the documents submitted by the TTFI to the ITTF, a text message from Sanmay sent to a former player on March 19 at 11.14 am has the potential to blow the lid off Manika’s claims.
It reads: “My respect for Manika has doubled now. What she did for Sutirtha that too after facing so much in life! She reached a position where she could help or not help! She chose to help! This is real strength, good heart and real positive mind! Real big hearted lady she is. Country matters.”
Another document that came to light is from a ITTF-certified Blue Badge Umpire, who officiated in the qualifying tournament in Doha.
His statement reads: “I am testifying what I witnessed on March 18, 2021, and reconfirming the talks I had with Paranjape on the morning of the match between Manika and Sutirtha."
“We were all euphoric about two Indians qualifying for the Olympics because it was already in the air. It could have happened only one way, and that was if Sutirtha won against Manika, because the latter would automatically qualify on her world rankings. When Paranjape came and exchanged pleasantries with me, I asked if both Indians were going to Tokyo. He smilingly replied that “you guessed it right.” In fact, when he came for the match in the evening, I asked why he came to the venue, instead of resting at the hotel since we knew the result (Sutirtha’s victory), he laughed it off saying he came to watch the match.”
It remains to be seen how the ITTF’s Integrity Unit, headed by Kevin Carpenter, views these documents. It is believed that ITTF has held virtual meetings with all the stakeholders and is ready to deliver its verdict.
Though the principal office-bearers of the TTFI remained tight-lipped, a source in the know of the proceedings mentioned the likelihood of ITTF suspending Manika, Sutirtha, Roy and Sanmay for their apparent roles behind the contrived result in Doha.