Indian paddlers start favourites in South Asian table tennis

New Delhi, July 19 (IANS) Indian paddlers start favourites yet again to make another clean sweep of all the 10 gold medals on offer when they start their campaign in the South Asian Junior Table Tennis Championships that gets underway at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium here Saturday.

In the last edition held at Shillong, the Indians not only won the gold in team and individual events of all the four sections - cadet boys, junior boys, cadet girls and junior girls - but also claimed four silvers in the singles events to make it a India-centric event.

The verdict this time will be no different because that is the maximum that the Indians can aim for in a format that tries to accommodate the interests of the visiting teams as well.

Nevertheless, there is so much to gain from the championships as it provides the gateway to the Junior Asian Championships, the big platform for the junior paddlers.

Indian paddlers have been consistently walking into the asian juniors as the top team from the region, leaving the second position to other five teams.

Last year, it was Sri Lanka who qualified in all but one section and they will want to make amends. Nepal managed to qualify in the junior boys section while Sri Lanka grabbed spots in other three sections as the second-best team.

But where one expects an intense rivalry - limited to only Indians - to come in is in the singles events.

India have cleverly chosen their squads by including some experienced hands as well as a few fresh faces. For the likes of Abhishek Yadav and Utkarsh, the winners of Junior Boys and Cadet Boys singles crowns, along with Sudhanshu Grover, Birdie Boro and Lalrin Puia this will be the second appearance in succession while Rohit Rajsekhar and Anirban Ghosh are the new faces.

Similarly, Suthirtha Mukherjee, who has grown in stature, and Reeth Rishya, SAF championships, are not new. But for the likes of Manika Batra, who was pulled out last year to compete in the senior section, Ayhika Mukerjee, R. Harshavardhani, Sagarika Mukherjee and up-and-coming Sreeja Akula, the meet provides a bigger platform.

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