Lucknow: Olympian Achanta Sharath Kamal
and reigning national champion Kumaresan Shamini will lead a
somewhat depleted Indian challenge when the 19th Asian Table
Tennis Championship gets underway here tomorrow.
The Indian challenge lost some bite when woman Olympian
Neha Aggarwal, who is struggling for form, failed to make
the final squad and former national champion Subhajit Saha was
ruled out due to injury.
World number 70, Sharath, fresh from a three-month
special training programme in Germany, would be the hosts`
best bet in the week-long event, which is being held in the
country for the third time.
Before Delhi stages the Commonwealth Games next year,
this is considered to be one of the most important events to
test the paddlers` preparations.
"We will play in the (Asian) Championship with an
intention of giving our best performance with the major target
(2010 CWG) in our mind," Indian coach Massimo Constantini said
"Asian Championship is going to be toughest competition
for us. Playing at home is never easy, sometimes it is an
advantage but sometimes not at all. There will be high
expectations from us," the Italian said.
Apart from regulars like Sourav Chakraborty, former India
number one Poulomi Ghatak and her doubles partner Mouma Das,
the selectors have also decided to try some young hands in
Jubin Kumar, Pooja Sahasrabhudhe and Divya Deshpande.
In team event, the Indians are expected to have a smooth
ride to the knock-out stage as both the men and women`s teams
have been handed easy groupings for the preliminary round.
Indian men are clubbed with Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and
Jordan in Group B of the First Division, while their women
counterparts would play Nepal, Laos and Kazakhstan in Group D.
However, in the singles and doubles events, the hosts
would face some stiffer challenges and they would surely try
to capitalise on home support.
Men`s competition will feature world number five Wang
Liqin of China, Japanese Mizutani Jun (12th) and Cheung Yuk
(15th) of Hong Kong, while Chinese aces Li Xiaoxia (3rd), Liu
Shiwen (4th) and Feng Tianwei (7th) would be the main
attractions in women`s events.
The tournament, which would be held at the 4,000-seater
Uttar Pradesh Badminton Academy in Gomti Nagar, will have
eight categories, including two team events, singles, doubles
and mixed doubles.
India has earlier hosted the Asian Championship twice —
in 1980 (Kolkata) and in 1992 (New Delhi).