Abhishek Yadav,the bronze medal winner at the Asian Youth Games at Nanjing (China),and rising star Suthirtha Mukherjee will be the cynosure of all eyes at the Reliance India Junior and Cadet Open Table Tennis Championships,getting underway here at the NSCI-Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium from tomorrow.
The two youngsters will rely on the experience of Manika Batra to guide them with adequate support coming from Ayikha Mukherjee and others to help top-seed India deliver the goods,both collectively and individually and,in the process,seal a few berths in the Youth Olympics to be held at the same Chinese city next year.
However,it is easier said than done,particularly when the championships have the presence of Chinese and Hong Kong paddlers,however devoid of stars,in their midst. With 12 medals and a sizeable prize purse of $8,000 at stake in both the Cadet and Junior sections,other participating nationsNigeria,the UAE and Iranare also expected to give some worries for the Indians. Nigerians and Iranians have the reputation of upsetting the calculations of best in business.
In other words,the Indian paddlers will have to do a real tight-rope walk during the five-day championships even as they keep their second-seed billing intact. As usual,everything depends on the forms of the individuals more than the draws,which are scheduled for later tonight.
Nevertheless,the Indian players are upbeat and want to make the home event a memorable one. Abhishek and Sudhanshu Grover,who with back-to-back zonal titles under his belt,are in great form and hope to put their best foot forward. Abhishek,particularly,sounded very confident having played top-notchers in the Asian Youth Games early this year. I am fit and looking forward to this event. I am sure India will be able to win maximum medals, he said.
Asked if he was worried about the presence of Chinese,Abhishek said: The Chinese are always good. But I am not thinking about them or the draw at this juncture, he added. Sudhanshu,who has got a direct berth in the singles of the World Junior Championships in Morocco,said he would keep things very simple. I will play my game and leave the rest to god, he said. But he will have to justify his berth in the World Juniors ahead of other Indians.
India,taking advantage of hosting the event,has put up Team B which has players like promising Utkarsh Gupta,Sabhay Virmani,Rohit Rajasekhar in the junior section while it will be Arjun Ghosh and Ayush Tayal in Cadet Boys. The main team in Junior Girls will be led by both Suthirtha and Manika while Reeth Tennison and Ayhika Mukherjee will shoulder the burden in the B team.
In Cadet Girls,though Sagarika Mukherjee and Sreeja Akula will lead the challenge while newcomers A. Naina,Shrusthi Halengadi,and a host others have been given the chance to feel the international taste for the first time. In fact,even in the Cadet Boys section there are three teams,making the competition more Indian flavor than international. So not surprisingly,the Indian teams have been top-seeded in all categories.
Part of the TTFI annual calendar,the India Open is an ITTF global circuit event and has been the gate way to young paddlers in the country. It has kept a supply line steady since the championships inception in 2006. Players like Soumyajit Ghosh,Harmeet Desai,G. Sathiyan among men and Poulomi Ghatak,K. Shamini and Madhuri Patklar in the womens section are,to name a few,the products of India Open since 2006.