New Delhi: Indian table tennis fans will be in a for a rare treat in March 2015 when some of the world's best paddlers, led by the Chinese of course, arrive in the country for the Asian Cup.
India last hosted the prestigious tournament in 2005.
Dhanraj Choudhary, secretary general of the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI), today revealed that 16 players each in the men's and women's singles will battle it out for top honours in the USD100, 000 event.
The venue will be a toss-up between Delhi, Jaipur, Bangalore and Kolkata, said Choudhary.
He further informed that the Asian Table Tennis Union (ATTU) awarded the hosting rights to India at its executive meeting during the Incheon Asian Games.
"The world's best players belong to Asia and the fans in India will get to watch them live. Quality wise I don't think it can get better than this," said Choudhary, who is also the ATTU treasurer.
The Indian official said eight players in either category will get a direct entry based on their world rankings and the other eight will come through regional qualification, adding only two players per country will be allowed to compete. India as the host nation will receive a wildcard each in either category.
Such is the dominance of Asia in world table tennis that eight men and nine women from the region are sitting pretty in the top-10 of the ITTF rankings.
"The good thing is all the big names are expected to be here as the prize money is attractive. It will of course be a treat for the fans and for our top players it will be a great learning experience," said Choudhary.
While stalwart Sharath Kamal is expected to lead the Indian challenge, China's world number one Xu Xin and Ding Ning will be star attractions of the annual event. Ma Long and Ding Ning won the 2014 men's and women's title in Wuhan.
This year's runner-up Fan Zhendong is expected to be the other crowd-puller. The 17-year-old has made waves worldwide and is ranked number two behind Xin. The two played a pulsating final at the Incheon Asian Games, where Xin emerged champion.
Choudhary said the host city will be decided next month
and personally he would want the competition to be held in Kolkata, a city likely to draw maximum crowd.
"Logistics-wise Delhi is the best option but the other state federations have also showed keen interest. You can expect a good crowd if we do it in Kolkata. People love their sport there. Bangalore is another option and the officials there have been asking for a big event from a long time. If nothing works out, we will do it in Delhi," he added.
Delhi was also the venue of 2005 Asian Cup, where Wang Hao and Guo Yun of China were crowned champions.