New Delhi: Favorites India will be eyeing a clean sweep of all the 10 gold medals for the second successive year in the South Asian Junior Table Tennis Championships which gets underway at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, here tomorrow.
In the last edition held at Shillong, the hosts 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.
Nevertheless, the championships provide the gateway to the Junior Asian Championships, a big platform for the teen 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.
But where one expects an intense rivalry, limited to only Indians, is in the singles events.
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.
Suthirtha gets her opportunity to win the title in junior
girls section but Manika will be breathing down her neck.
Suthirtha, who is ranked 35 in the world, has not only beaten Manika, ranked 27, at the Slovak Open recently, but the West Bengal girl went on to annex the Polish title in May. So, the dice is heavily loaded against the Delhi girl.
As for the boys section, each one of them knows the other like the back of his palm. All of them are capable of beating one another on a given day, but both Abhishek and Utkarsh have a lot at stake to defend their crowns.
With six teams in fray, the cadet boys and junior boys teams will play in two stages while the girls in both sections will play in a league format.
In the cadet boys section, group A has India, Bangladesh, Pakistan while group B includes Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal. In the junior boys section, India, Pakistan and Bhutan have been put together in group A, while Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh form group B.
Ganeshan Neelakant Iyer will be the competition manager for the event while A S Kler is the referee of the championships.