Team India would be looking to add to their Tokyo 2020 contingent when the ITTF-ATTU Asian Table Tennis Championships begin this weekend in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
With Olympic spots up for grabs at this competition for each category, India has named their strongest squad possible with the likes of Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, Manika Batra and Sharath Kamal all making the cut.
The Indian camp though could expect some stiff competition from the Chinese and Japanese paddlers, who would be overwhelming favourites to win the top prize at the Championships.
Nevertheless, with a good blend of youth and experience, the Indian contingent could emerge as the dark horses of the competition.
As India’s top-ranked male paddler at the moment, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran would be the main prospect. The Tamil Nadu lad created history in April 2019 by becoming the first table tennis player from the country to break into the top 25 of the ITTF rankings.
Gnanasekaran was part of the Dabang Delhi team that finished as runners-up in the recently concluded Ultimate Table Tennis league in India.
Aside from that, the paddler from Chennai also has a stellar track record in International competitions, having won the Belgium Open in 2016 and won a bronze at the Oman Open a few months back. He has proved his worth on the grand stage on previous occasions, and the Indian camp would be optimistic for that to continue in Indonesia.
Veteran Sharath Kamal will also be one to watch out for at the Asian Table Tennis Championships. The 37-year-old has an excellent Commonwealth Games record having won gold four times across categories, with the most recent of those triumphs coming at the 2018 Gold Coast edition in the men’s team event.
He also has two Asian Games medals to his name, winning in the men’s team as well as the mixed doubles categories in 2018.
Kamal was also part of the victorious Chennai Lions team in Ultimate Table Tennis a few months ago. With a solid recent record coupled with more than a decade’s worth of experience, Kamal could end up being a surprise contender for the Olympic qualifier.
In the women’s section, all eyes would be on 24-year-old Manika Batra. The paddler from Delhi has been India’s top-ranked female table tennis player, with several accolades to her name at the international level.
She won an individual gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, alongside three other medals in the doubles and team categories. Batra has paired up brilliantly with compatriots Madhurika Patkar in doubles events, and the Indian patrons would be hoping for that combination to bring some success in Indonesia.
Apart from these two, the Indian women’s team will be completed by youngsters Sutirtha Mukherjee and Ayhika Mukherjee, who have represented the nation in a few international competitions.
The male roster will have the likes of Amalraj Anthony and Harmeet Desai, as well as youngster Manav Vikash Thakkar, who has four ITTF World Junior Circuit Boys’ Singles titles to his name.