Top-seeded Indian paddlers raring to go

Mumbai: Abhishek Yadav, the bronze medal winner at the recent Asian Youth Games at Nanjing, China, and rising star Suthirtha Mukherjee will be the cynosure of all eyes at the Reliance India Junior and Cadet Open Table Tennis Championships which begins at the NSCI-Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium here on Wednesday.

The two youngsters will rely on the experience of Manika Batra to guide them with adequate support coming from Ayikha Mukherjee and others to help top-seed India deliver the goods, both collectively and individually and, in the process, seal a few berths in the Youth Olympics to be held at the same Chinese city next year.

However, it will not be easy, particularly when the championships have the presence of Chinese and Hong Kong paddlers, however devoid of stars in their midst.

With 12 medals and a sizeable prize purse of USD 8,000 at stake in both the Cadet and Junior sections, other participating nations -- Nigeria, the UAE and Iran -- are also expected to give some worries for the Indians.

The Nigerians and Iranians have the reputation of upsetting the calculations of the best in business.

The Indian paddlers will have to play their best during the five-day championships. Nevertheless, the Indian players are upbeat and want to make the home event a memorable one.

India, taking advantage of hosting the event, has put up Team B which has players like promising Utkarsh Gupta, Sabhay Virmani, Rohit Rajasekhar in the junior section while it will be Arjun Ghosh and Ayush Tayal in Cadet Boys.

The main team in Junior Girls will be led by both Suthirtha and Manika while Reeth Tennison and Ayhika Mukherjee will shoulder the burden in the B team.

In Cadet Girls, though Sagarika Mukherjee and Sreeja Akula will lead the challenge while newcomers A Naina, Shrusthi Halengadi, and a host others have been given the chance to feel the international taste for the first time.

In fact, even in the Cadet Boys section there are three teams, making the competition more Indian flavor than international. So not surprisingly, the Indian teams have been top-seeded in all categories.