Dharamsala, Nov 23 (IANS) With Petroleum Sports Promotion Board’s (PSPB) hegemony in Junior and Youth Boys sections getting over a couple of seasons ago, reigning champions Maharashtra look to be the team to beat in the 77th Junior and Youth National Table Tennis Championships, beginning at the Indoor Stadium here on Tuesday.
The Maharashtra boys in both sections had rightfully filled the gap at Alleppey last year, giving out a firm warning to the other teams in the fray. It must has come as a great relief to all state teams that PSPB’s monopoly was over and that they can hope to lay their hands on the teams’ trophy.
However, the Maharashtra teams are not going to give up so easily, thanks to a very good outfit they have come up with.
Of the 29 teams in Youth Boys and 31 in Junior Boys, Rajasthan is the only team in the Youth section that can pose some danger to Maharashtra. With the likes of Abhishek Yadav, Sudhanshu Grover and Pankaj Viswakarma, the task should be easier. But then they have Ravindra Kotiyan to contend with, the only threat. And if Rajasthan manages to ward him off, the title should be theirs.
But there are teams like Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Telangana who have players of calibre to give a headache to these two teams. Even West Bengal, with Arjun Ghosh part of the squad, can look to topple the bigger teams. In the Junior Boys section, the contest looks between West Bengal and Rajasthan along with Maharashtra.
As for Youth Girls, the real challenge could be between Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Delhi, thanks to the induction of Manika Batra, who was relieved by PSPB on loan. Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have strong squads to pose questions. However, it is to be seen whether AAI or Delhi can be stopped early enough.
In Junior Girls, Telangana are title holders while Maharashtra finished behind them at Alleppey. It is in this category that a few more teams are capable of beating one another on a given day. Teams like Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Karnataka and Maharashtra B are reasonably good with enough fire power. North Bengal, though having lost some teeth, cannot be ignored completely.
Teams in both sections of boys and girls have been divided into eight groups of three or four teams and qualifiers for the team events in Junior and Junior Girls will begin on Tuesday. The Youth events’ qualifications will start on Tuesday with team finals in four categories slated for Thursday.
From Friday, the singles and doubles events commence followed with the finals on Sunday. With Rs.4.76 lakhs prize money on offer, the contest in all categories will be tough.
Those who maximized their chances, holding sway during the national ranking championships held in five zones — Abhishek Yadav, Ravindra Kotiyan, Manush Shah, Manav Thakkar, Siddesh Pandey, Arjun Ghosh, Manushree Patil, Prapti Sen and Harshavardhini Ravichandran — stand a very good chance.