Howrah, October 17: As we approach the midway mark of the 2019 season, the UTT National Ranking (East Zone) Table Tennis Championships beginning at the huge Howrah Indoor Stadium from Friday have a lot to offer for the aspiring paddlers of the country.
The fact of the matter can be gauged from the number of entries—over 1600—across all sections received, thanks mainly due to the inclusion of team events for men and women and the Boys and Girls (U13-U15) challenges, introduced from the South Zone at Thiruvananthapuram, for the players from the region. In other words, paddlers from as many as 11 teams, including North Bengal, the seven NE states besides Chhattisgarh and Odisha will be participating in the two events here.
In addition, the Federation has introduced mixed doubles from these championships in order to provide vital match practice in national ranking events, apart from unearthing talent that can be groomed for the future.
The new facility at Howrah will be put to use for the first time and the players will thoroughly enjoy the excellent light and playing conditions that are offered. But, unfortunately, three top players—A. Sharath Kamal, G. Sathiyan and Manika Batra—will not be here to benefit from the conditions. However, all other top players of the country will be on view in all sections.
Yet, their absence will be relished by the other participants who can make most of it to grab the top-of-podium finish in the men and women singles while the juniors, who will be competing in the Oman Open at Muscat, will have the necessary match practice before their overseas championships.
But as hosts, West Bengal will have all the limelight on them as they are expected to take both the men and women team championships, with paddlers representing North Bengal and Assam, closely following them to the podium for lesser medals.
With the impending departure of Team India for the Oman Open, the competition department will be beginning the East Zone championships with Cadet and Sub-Junior competitions, followed by the Junior Boys and Girls events.
The championships will see veteran referee A.S.Kler taking charge of the proceedings with Atul Dubey as his deputy. They will be assisted by 55 Blue Badge, international and national umpires on all eight days of the tournament.
According to competition manager, N. Ganeshan, 20 Stag Americas tables, flooring and DHS balls will be used during the championships.
The matches get underway from 10 a.m while Aroop Biswas, Minister of Public Works and Youth Services and Sports, will formally inaugurate the championships in the evening.
Table Tennis Federation of India