One of the stark contrasts to the third edition of the Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) - to be played in New Delhi from July 25 to August 11 - to the previous two seasons will be in the titles of all the six teams. After all, for the first time in the franchise-based table tennis league’s sojourn will each team be identified with a city or a region.
After trying out an open franchise-model for the first two editions that didn’t really work in terms of creating a new fan-base, the UTT organisers have resorted to have six city-based teams for the third edition.
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The move has found support from A. Sharath Kamal, the flag-bearer of Indian table tennis for a decade and a half. “The pool of fans is too small for a sport like table tennis, so I guess it’s great to identify a city-based team to find a wider fan connect,” Sharath told Sportstar . “I am sure it will reflect in many more sport lovers noticing UTT this time around.”
The move reflected in the fact the Chennai Lions, one of the three new entrants, in the league’s fold this season, latched on to Sharath, the local star, at the beginning of the player draft last week. “I sensed that it didn’t really matter the combination of the squad. It was important for the team to have me on board to create a local connect,” Sharath said.
Once G. Sathiyan, the highest-ranked Indian to feature in the league, was retained by Dabang Delhi T.T.C., the Chennai Lions had no hesitation in adding Sharath to its roster. Besides Sharath, Indian paddlers who will turn out for their home team include Parth Virmani (Dabang Delhi) and Prapti Sen (RP-SG Mavericks Kolkata).
According to Vita Dani, co-promoter of the league, the change in the format is one of the means to “promote table tennis better in a league that is evolving”. With the league having failed to create a limited buzz in India, the organisers and the broadcaster will hope that the local connect turns out to be the lucky charm next month.
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