Indias fortunes in table tennis at the London Olympics will hinge on how well their six-member squad,led by the experienced Achanta Sharath Kamal,does at the upcoming Asian Olympic Table Tennis Qualification tournament at Hong Kong. Till date,no Indian has made the cut for the quadrennial event.
Seven slots are available in each of the mens and womens sections at the qualification tournament. The April 19-22 event,therefore,provides the best opening for the likes of Sharath Kamal,Anthony Amalraj and Soumyajit Ghosh in the mens section while Poulomi Ghatak,Kumaresan Shamini and Ankita Das will be hoping to make the cut in the womens category.
The six-member team,along with Polish coach Leszek Kucharski and national coach Bhawani Mukherjee,will leave for Hong Kong late on Monday. However,it will not be an easy outing for the Indian paddlers in the field of 23 men and 21 women participants from 14 countries.
Sharath Kamal is seeded sixth at the Hong Kong qualifiers,while Amalraj is seeded ninth. As for the women,Ankita Das is seeded 12th,followed by Shamini at 13.
Sharath admitted the qualifiers would be tough but said that he had played some tough matches at the world meet in Dortmund last month. I have been playing really well in recent months and it should help me in Hong Kong. It all depends on the grouping I get into, he said.
Talking about his team mates,Sharath said both Amalraj and Ghosh were capable of giving a good fight. Amalraj,by nature,is an aggressive player. He has grown as a player and should do well. As for Soumyajit,I would say that on his day he can beat any top contender, added Sharath.
National coach Bhawani Mukherjee said the Indians were upbeat about the qualifiers,having prepared well for the Hong Kong tournament.
They trained in Austria before the Dortmund worlds and subsequently here at Patiala during the 10-day camp. We can get a maximum of two berths,one each in the men and women sections.