Petroleum men set to continue domination, women aim to regain title

Petroleum men will be looking for their 24th title and the women, their 20th as Hyderabad hosts the premier event after January 2016.

Manika Batra

Without Manika Batra and Archana Kamath (not in picture), Petroleum women will be tested this year.   -  AFP

Far more often than not, the team titles in the National table tennis championship have gone to Petroleum. Having given employment to all members of the National team, it is hardly surprising to find state teams only competing to finish second best.

Over the next four days at the Saroornagar Indoor Stadium here, Petroleum men will be looking for their 24th title and the women, their 20th as the city again hosts the premier event after January 2016.

Petroleum men have remained unbeaten since losing to Railways in the 2002 final. In comparison, Petroleum’s domination in the women section stood snapped four times since 2012, including twice in the last three editions by Bengal.

This time, without Manika Batra and in likely absence of an injured singles defending champion Archana Kamath, Petroleum could be tested once again.

Though vastly-experienced Madhurika Patkar leads a young Petroleum side, teams like last year’s surprise winner Bengal ‘A’, Railways and Maharashtra ‘A’ are capable of causing some serious embarrassment.

For the men’s team title, it is futile to look beyond Petroleum’s five-man ‘Team India’ - Sharath Kamal, G. Sathiyan, Harmeet Desai, A. Amalraj and Manav Thakkar. The team is expected to arrive on Tuesday from Portugal and as a result, its league matches have been re-scheduled. Though Sathiyan’s name is in the team list, there is no clarity over his willingness to show up here.

Last year’s runner-up Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Bengal ‘A’ and Delhi will be among those with potential to reach the final.

Meanwhile, two warring associations from Tamil Nadu have been accommodated as Tamizhaga TTA and TNTTA. West Bengal has become Bengal ‘A’ and North Bengal rechristened as Bengal ‘B’.

The team finals are scheduled on January 30 and the singles’ titles will be decided on February 2.

Team championship (Groups)

Men

Group ‘A’: Petroleum, Assam, Uttarakhand and Punjab; Group ‘B’: Gujarat, Maharashtra ‘B’, Odisha and Tripura; Group ‘C’: Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Pondicherry; Group ‘D’: Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Himachal Pradesh and Meghalaya; Group ‘E’: Maharasthra ‘A’, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, TTTA and Jammu & Kashmir; Group ‘F’: Bengal ‘A’, TNTTA, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Daman & Diu; Group ‘G’: Railways, Bengal ‘B’, Kerala, Chandigarh and Andaman & Nicobar; Group ‘H’: Haryana, Rajasthan, Bihar, Goa and Manipur.

Women

Group ‘A’: Bengal ‘A’, Uttar Pradesh, Goa and Bihar; Group ‘B’:
Petroleum, Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand and TTTA; Group ‘C’: Maharashtra ‘B’, TNTTA, Madhya Pradesh and Meghalaya; Group ‘D’: Maharashtra ‘A’, Delhi, Tripura and Jharkhand; Group ‘E’: Telangana, Rajasthan, Pondicherry and Himachal Pradesh; Group ‘F’: Karnataka, Odisha, Kerala and Mizoram; Group ‘G’: Gujarat, Assam, Haryana and Chandigarh; Group ‘H’: Railways, Bengal ‘B’, Punjab and Chhattisgarh.