PSPB favourites as Senior National Table Tennis begins Monday

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Pudhucherry (IANS) Men’s team title holders Petroleum Sports Promotion Board’s (PSPB) supremacy is unlikely to be threatened when they begin their quest at the 76th Senior Nationals Table Tennis championship, beginning at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium here Monday.

With a steady supply line and an excellent team ethics, the PSPB have held a sway over the Barna Ballack Cup for several years in a row. The firepower in their arsenal is a further confirmation-national champion Sanil Shetty, G.Sathiyan, Soumyajit Ghosh (he won the Petroleum title last week), Anthony Amal Raj and Harmeet Desai – of the solidity which most teams can only dream about.

The sore note, however, could be the absence of a long-standing companion in Achanta Shatath Kamal, who has opted out of the championships, a first of its kind in many years. He did make a token appearance in the Petroleum event held in New Delhi last week.

On the other hand, PSPB women’s team has to rely on old warhorses Mouma Das, Poulami Ghatak and K. Shamini, in that order, and the young brigade of Manika Batra and Ankita Das to retain the Jayalakshmi Cup.

Though part of the younger lot, national champion Ankita has been as inconsistent as Shamini, who won the Petroleum title. This would put the extra pressure on Manika and even Mouma who, despite being the oldest, is considered dependable.

The suspension of Suthirtha Mukherjee, who won back-to-back titles at Indore and Gandhidham, could be a setback for PSPB who, otherwise, could have pitted a young team keeping the future in mind.

The Rs.9.58 lakh prize money will be the big motivating factor, besides the coveted crowns and valuable ranking points. For the first time, the doubles winners and runners-up in all the three sections will receive prize money – a total of Rs.28,000 each.

Teams here have been divided into eight groups of three or four teams with only top two making it to the second stage, the knockout, beginning the second day, followed by semifinals and finals on the third day. The day will also see qualification matches in singles events.

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