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‘Tough’ is easy for Sharath’s Team India
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‘Tough’ is easy for Sharath’s Team India

Agency News

Cuttack, Jul 16: India may have got the toughest group opponents from among
the teams participating in the 21st Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships,
beginning at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium here tomorrow.

But team captain and ace paddler A. Sharth Kamal is more than confident that India
will retain the Host Association’s Cup on Friday.Sharath was not way off the mark when he talked about the draw as India are clubbed with Singapore and Scotland in group B, while England, the top-ranked team here and placed in group A, have Sri Lanka and Cyprus for company.

With the format allowing two teams from each group to qualify for the second stage,
Sharath & Company is not losing any sleep. In fact, he said India would be aiming to
sweep the gold medals.

His calculations are based on the weakest England, Nigeria and Singapore teams
that have come here. He said it in as many words when asked for his opinion on the
draw.

“Indeed, we are in the toughest group but since England, Nigeria and Singapore
have not fielded their best players, Indian men should win the team and open events,”
said the winner of 10 medals, including the 2004 singles and team championship gold
medals.

No doubt, with the Commonwealth Games getting all the attention in recent times,
the focus has moved away from the Commonwealth Championship. But Sharath was
appreciative of the efforts made by the Table Tennis Federation of India. “TTFI has done a wonderful job by offering free hospitality to all the teams and this has kept the event alive,” said the 37-year-old.

Coming back to the championships, Sharath said the way G. Sathiyan, ranked
No. 24 in the world, has been playing, of late, India would always fancy their chance
against even the toughest. “He is in the form of his life. Besides, two seasoned
campaigners in Liam Pitchford and Paul Drinkhall (England) and Aruna Quadri and
Segun Toriola (Nigeria) are not here. Singapore, too, have fielded a young side while
other teams are not that strong. It makes our job easier,” he said.

In comparison, the women team draw looks far easier than one would have expected.
Again, on the basis of team ranking, Singapore is the top-seeded squad but India, at
No. 2, form a part of group B with South Africa and Sri Lanka, while group A has
Singapore, Wales and Scotland. The other groups have lesser teams in terms of
ranking.

The Indian women, on its strength, should be able to cross the first-stage hurdle  without dropping a sweat. However, they could face some stiff competition from  Singapore as the hosts approach the final. Manika Batra, on whose shoulder the
burden is placed, may not be in the kind of form she ran into in 2018 CWG and
Asian Games, but she is capable of pulling it off in a team event like this,
particularly when the home crowd would be rooting for her and Team India.
In their first group match, Indian women take on Scotland, followed by
Singapore.

The inauguration is slated for 10.30 tomorrow morning and the championships
will be declared open by Governor Prof. Ganeshi Lal. And the championships
open with group matches in women section for the team championships.
The six-day event will be telecast live by Doordharshan.
Men:
Group A: England, Sri Lanka, Cyprus
Group B: India, Singapore, Scotland
Group C: Nigeria, Malaysia, Bangladesh
Group D: Australia, South Africa, Wales
Women:
Group A: Singapore, Wales, Scotland
Group B: India, South Africa, Sri Lanka
Group C: Australia, Malaysia, Cyprus
Group D: Nigeria, England, Bangladesh. (UNI)