Chennai, Jan 11: Defending champion in the boys' section two years ago in Hong Kong, India is seeded fourth in the forthcoming Asian junior squash team championship to be held in Pattaya, Thailand from January 16 to 20.
The girls' who had finished sixth then have been seeded three.
In all 13 boys' and nine girls' teams are participating this time. Pakistan and Malaysia have been given the pride of place in seedings in the boys 'and girls' sections respectively.
Two years ago Velavan Senthilkumar was the spearhead for India and this Chennai lad, who was the Asian junior champion guided India into the title round before ensuring the grand win over Malaysia for the title. Much has changed but most importantly the Indian squad looks new if not raw. Freshly crowned national junior Utkarsh Baheti, Veer Chotrani, Yash Fadte and Tushar Shahani form the squad. The first three had featured for India in the 2018 world junior championship held in Chennai. Though India did not reach any high there, the experience of playing a tough competition is what strengthens these boys. Tushar has been a regular campaigner in the junior competitions and infact is ranked number one in the national circuit. National coach Cyrus Poncha who is travelling with the side, is however confident that the boys will fight their way to the final. “We have a solid team with a good depth. I would like to stick my neck out and say we will go all the way,” he said.
The girls' section is where India has been hit a bit. Top two talents Aishwarya Khubchandani and Ananya Dabke could not be part of the squad as they had examinations and did not participate in the trials. Still national champions Sanya Vats (U-19) and Yoshna Singh (U-17) besides Amira Singh and Ananya Morey are the next best lot ready to put up a brave fight.
The boys have been placed in Group D along with Korea, Iraq and host Thailand while the girls have been placed in Group B along with second seed Hong Kong, Singapore and Sri Lanka. “India has a fine chance of coming into the knock out phase and finish well overall,” Poncha said of the girls' draw. (UNI)