Indian men, women paddlers face tough challenge (TT preview)By Bharat Sharma, IANS
Sunday, October 3, 2010
NEW DELHI - Indian men Monday begin the campaign to defend their Commonwealth Games table tennis gold with an easy outing against minnows Vanuatu while women have their task cut out against New Zealand.
The Indian men led by star player Sharath Kamal are seeded second in the event and take on Vanuatu in a Group B match.
The women’s team, bronze medallist four years ago, is grouped with Sri Lanka and New Zealand in Group D. They are seeded seeded fourth in the tournament.
Expectation that the men’s team will retain the gold is high as they beat fancied Singapore in Melbourne in 2006 to win the top honours.
“It will be much tougher this time. Singapore has been bolstered with the entry of Chinese Gao Ning, who is ranked higher than me. They had a strong team in Melbourne. Now with the new recruit they will be tough to beat,” Kamal told IANS.
Kamal will have the support of Subhajit Saha and Soumyadeep Roy, who were also there in Melbourne. Anthony Amalraj, the second highest ranked Indian at 181, and Sourav Chakroborty are the new faces in the squad.
Besides India and Singapore, Australia, Nigeria and England are the other medal contenders in the men’s competition.
For the women, the match against the Kiwis should be tough as it comprises Asian origin players.
“Most of the New Zealand players are of Chinese origin. We can’t afford to take them lightly. Winning against the Lankans should not be a problem,” coach Bhawani Mukherjee told IANS.
The Indian team, led by Mouma Das, the highest ranked at 204, comprises Poulomi Ghatak, Shamini Kumaresan, Mamta Prabhu and Madhurika Patkar.
World Champions Singapore have got the top billing in the women’s event and are favourites to win the gold. England, Malaysia and Australia are the other strong teams.
The top two teams in the group stage will qualify for the quarterfinals.
The tournament will see 25 teams in the men’s and 16 in the women’s event. They will be vying for 21 medals in seven events — singles, doubles, mixed doubles, team (men and women).
(Bharat Sharma can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
–Indo–Asian News Service