Harpal Singh Bedi
New Delhi: Table tennis Federation of India’s (TTFI) decision to reintroduce team championships in zonal events from this season, has been welcomed by all states from the five zones and they are as much excited about its revival as their teams’ prospects.
The eight men and six women teams, competing in the UTT National Ranking (North Zone) Table Tennis Championships, starting at the DPS School , Sonepat (Haryana) from Sunday , also feel that the opportunity would provide a fillip to their aspirations and help assess their ability in northern India.
In a scenario in which the supremacy of PSPB squads in senior nationals is impossible to implode. In such a situation, the resumption of team events in zonals is the best chance for teams to show their mettle and strike a balance, at least in their respective zones.
However, the asymmetry is inevitable and cannot be overcome as the battle for titles in northern India would be fought between hosts Haryana and Delhi. But Haryana, with a definite edge over Delhi, are the favourites to win both crowns.
A cursory look at their line-ups in the two sections would reveal why they are the strong contenders in the Swathylin Cup format. However, the burden of taking Haryana to team titles lies on Jubin Kumar, Sourav Saha, Jeet Chandra, Soumyajit Ghosh and Gourang Shakreja. Ghosh, who returned to the mainstream after a period of suspension, may not have regained his form and full fitness but his presence will boost Haryana’s confidence.
Even otherwise, the left-handed Jubin and Saha along with young Jeet are good enough to crush any possible threat from Delhi, who will largely look up to Utkarsh Gupta, Payas Jain, Parth Virmani and Aadarsh Om Chetri, with their fifth paddler in either Yashansh Malik or Sameer Sahni.
Coming to women’s crown, Haryana has former national champion Suthirta Mukherjee to lead their campaign with support coming from Suhana Saini, Anjali Rohilla, Riti Shankar and Oishwarya Deb. The hosts would expect Suthirta to win two of her singles while one of the other three paddlers giving necessary the third rubber.
On the other hand, senior pro Garima Goyal will have to shoulder a huge burden while youngsters Vanshika Bhargava, Ishita Gupta, Kritika Malik and Tamanna Saini chipping in with their contribution.
All these possibilities effectively rule out any potential challenge from the rest of the teams in fray. Yet, even if a few paddlers from among them put their hands up and rise to the occasion, the purpose of reviving team championships would be served well.