It is time again for the AAI-All India inter-institutional table tennis championship. And time again for Petroleum to flex its muscles as it prepares to sweep the titles over the next six days.
Such has been the domination of Petroleum in the sport that for over two decades, no team — men or women — has managed to challenge its supremacy. For the record, on Tuesday, Petroleum will be aiming for its 23rd title in the men’s section and 22nd in the ladies category.
The reason for Petroleum’s virtual monopoly is easy to understand. The sector provides employment to not only the creamy layer but also to those trying to break into the National team. Therefore, with the best at its disposal, Petroleum sleepwalks through the team events, to retain the titles as a matter of right and routine.
With the finalists qualifying for the team events of the National championship, the point of interest for the rest in the field is to reach the final. Mostly, it has been Railways men and more recently the AAI girls, who have looked impressive, but the gulf between the teams is so vast that the finals often turns out to be hopelessly one-sided.
In such a scenario, it's time the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) decided to revise the format and make it a more level-playing field for the rest. Otherwise, the monotony of Petroleum sweeping the team events will continue.
This time, too, it is a routine waiting to be repeated. Though A. Sharath Kamal will not be part of the Petroleum team, the presence of another Olympic-qualifier, Soumyajit Ghosh, will be decisive enough.
National champion A. Amalraj, G. Sathiyan, Harmeet Desai and Sanil Shetty will also take turns in belting the hapless opposition.
Similarly, in the ladies section, Petroleum enjoys the services of the Rio-bound duo of Manika Batra and Mouma Das, apart from Madhurika Patkar, K. Shamini and Pooja Sahasrabudhe. Again, there seems no stopping this Petroleum combination.
In addition, there will be four-team youth team championship in both sections. More than the boys, the girls are expected to run each other closer. Due to less number of teams, the titles will be decided on league-basis.
Once the team championship is decided, in sharp contrast, the open events will be very unpredictable. With all the four Olympic qualifiers in the fray, there preparedness is expected to be seriously tested by those who missed the bus.
Men: Group ‘A’: Petroleum, Atomic Energy and Defence Accounts.
Group ‘B’: Railways, BSNL and Employees State Insurance.
Group ‘C’: Airports Authority, Communications & IT and State Bank of Patiala.
Group ‘D’: Central Revenue, Air India and Electricity Board.
Group ‘E’: Canara Bank, Indian Audit and Air Force.
Group ‘F’: Life Insurance, Reserve Bank and Major Ports.
Women: Group ‘A’: Petroleum, Central Revenue and BSNL.
Group ‘B’: Reserve Bank, LIC and Defence Accounts.
Group ‘C’: Airports Authority, Railways, Indian Audit and Communications & IT.
Youth boys (league): Petroleum, Air India, Airports Authority and Railways.
Youth girls: Airports Authority, Petroleum, Air India and Railways.