Indore, Feb 12 : It is perhaps a good idea by India's supreme table tennis body ( Table Tennis Federation of India) to rechristen the Veterans Nationals as the Masters Nationals, giving the dignity the past masters of the game deserve as they get down to serious business at the 26th edition, beginning here at the Abhay Prashal celebrating its silver jubilee year on Tuesday.
The participants, numbering over 1,000 across 37 categories, begin their campaign with the team championships and follow them up with the individual events from the third day. With matches—team events, singles, doubles and mixed doubles—to be played, one can witness the pulse rate shooting among players, especially in the 40+ and 50+ sections.
After all, 37 gold medals are at stake and Maharashtra could be the team to beat as they have put up a strong contingent comprising 203 players. Understandably, hosts Madhya Pradesh follow in the second spot with 100 paddlers while West Bengal with 78 players qualifies as the third biggest team.
Surprisingly, this edition will see an unprecedented 226 entries in Men 40+, 240 in Men 50+ and 154 in Men 60+ sections, making the championships somewhat feisty. All these events are played in two stages, first in league format and followed by knockout.
There are 11 categories in team events—seven in men and four in women—with teams divided into groups of three each by the competition department.
For the sake of their convenience, it has also taken care of an easy schedule and has employed 24 tables in two halls. The seriousness of the Masters can be gauged by the fact that TTFI has not compromised on the quality of equipment either as matches will be played on Stag tables, as has been the practice in any national event, with flooring and balls also sponsored by Stag.
Unlike the other nationals conducted by TTFI, the participants of Masters may not have any higher stakes like making it to Team India squads for major Games, but some of these masters would definitely like to test their skills before entering their names for the World Veterans, to be held in France.
However, for some masters, winning a medal or two is just a bonus.
What matters to most of them is their participation. Yet, one cannot miss for the next six days their entire concentration will be to perform to the best of their abilities in front of a packed hall—some have been accompanied by their family members—to reconfirm that their passion and skills are intact despite having gone past their active playing days.
The MPTTA has provided a fantastic playing atmosphere and even the weather at Indore has been very conducive. And all these assure some fierce competition in individual events, especially in the 40+ and 50+ categories.
Incidentally, this was the second edition when entries were received through the online system ever since TTFI took over the reign of masters’ affairs a couple of years ago. And within two years, the competition department has made it absolutely technology-friendly for even the veterans committees of the IVTTC. So much so, all the 1000-odd entries were received on time which, in turn, has helped uploading all details like the match schedule, draws and entries on the website.
The enormity of the championships can also measured by the fact that two veteran referees—A.S. Kler and Anil Duby—will be assisting competition manager, N. Ganeshan. Both referees will have a host of other technical officials, including N.K. Lahiry and Joseph Chacko,Blue Badge, international and national umpires, numbering 60, to runthe event smoothly.