Table Tennis National C’ship: Sharath Kamal to bid for record ninth title

The 80th Senior National & Inter-State Table Tennis Championship begins at the JN Indoor Stadium on Friday.

Sharath Kamal is one title away from breaking Kamlesh Mehta’s long-standing record.   -  Vivek Bendre

With one more title, at the 11Sports 80th Senior National & Inter-State Table Tennis Championship, which begins at the JN Indoor Stadium here on Friday, defending champion Sharath Kamal will hope to get to a record tally of nine titles.

Among other participants, Soumyajit Ghosh will be keen to make a fruitful return to the competitive circuit. Among women, Manika Batra would be looking to cementing her place as the undisputed queen of Indian table tennis.

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In the corresponding event last year, Sharath equalled Kamlesh Mehta’s long-standing record of eight singles titles, the most in Indian table tennis history. The veteran paddler couldn’t ask for a better start to 2019 than winning the title. But the World No. 30 would be aware that the road to the summit could be the stiffest this time around.

Sathiyan, who trails Sharath by a solitary position in world rankings, has been gunning to take over the Indian table tennis mantle from the ageing warrior. Sathiyan would go all guns blazing in an attempt to earn his maiden National championship crown.

Buoyant Batra

Batra may have touched the latest personal high of No. 51 in the latest ITTF rankings, but the lanky Delhi girl has had a patchy form on the domestic circuit this season. She would be eager to stamp her authority by regaining the women’s title that she last won three years ago.

After settling issues on his personal front, Soumyajit Ghosh will be the dark horse for the National Championship. Photo: R. V. Moorthy

 

Ghosh, on the other hand, is relieved to have seen the TTFI lift his suspension and just participate in the Nationals. In March, Ghosh, who now represents Haryana in the domestic arena, was suspended days before the team’s departure for the Commonwealth Games after being alleged of rape. Having settled the disputes on the personal front, the 2011-12 champion would enter the six-day tournament as the dark horse.

PSPB favourite

The tournament will start with the team championship for the first three days. And with virtually all the top paddlers being recruited by the Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB), it will be interesting to see if teams like Maharashtra A, Railways Sports Promotion Board, Tamil Nadu and Haryana can pose any challenge to the favourites. After all, the PSPB men — with Sharath and Sathiyan leading the pack, and including A. Amal Raj, Manav Thakkar and Sudhanshu Grover — have been unbeaten in the team championship for 16 years in succession.

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The PSPB women will hope to resume its winning streak. After its prolonged domination was halted by West Bengal in 2016-17, the PSPB women regained the gold last year in Ranchi. Batra and Co. — with veteran Mouma Das, seasoned Madhurika Patkar and the young Archana Kamath completing the quorum — will hope to repeat the feat in Cuttack.