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Chitkara University starts favourites to win double-team gold

Guwahati:  Though only in its fourth edition, the Khelo India University Games (KIUG) has already gained popularity among the young people in the country. A pet project of the central government, different states have played hosts, and this time, Assam gets the opportunity to do the honours.

The 16-team per gender table tennis events, getting underway at the Nehru Stadium tomorrow, has a mix of government and private universities from the four regions—north, south, east and west—making it an evenly spread-out opportunity to outfits from around the country.

However, unfortunately, none of the government universities has made it to the top of the podium so far, as private educational institutions have ruled the roost.

Unlike the previous edition, the teams have been seeded based on the ranking obtained in recent all-India Varsity events. Accordingly, Chitkra, Chandigarh, SRM and University of Calcutta in the boys’ section, and the girls’ category, Chitkara, Chandigarh, SRM and Adamas universities have been drawn on top of the four groups.

Chitkara University from Punjab has the best catch of players. It is no wonder the reigning champions are the team to beat in the Boys’s section. The combined experience of Yanshansh Malik and Payas Jain, who are proven medal winners at the international level, alone should suffice. But they have added bite with Raegan Albuquerque and Wesley Do Rosario. Their fifth player, Chitwan Wadhaw, could be benched in crucial matches.

Chandigarh University has gained in strength with the induction of Divyansh Srivastava, who will form part of the team with Jash Modi, Chinmaya Somaiya and Khelendrajit Yengkhom. Jash and Khelendrajit played last year, too. If the two clashed in the knockout stage, it will be a treat to watch.

The University of Madras will rely on Tharun Shanmugam and Varun Ganesh, who are often inconsistent. They will be the pivot of the team around which the other players would rally to provide support. Teams like the University of Mumbai and North Bengal might put up some resistance with players like Deepit Rajesh Patil, Jayabrata Bhattcahrjee and Soumyadeep Sarkar in their ranks. But teams banking on a single player’s performance don’t progress beyond a point.

Chitkara in the girls’ section has sealed their gold as Suhana Saini’s arrival has boosted the team. A proven medal winner in all categories across ranking and national events, she will play a vital role in shaping their medal prospects. She will have support from Anannya Basak, Oishiki Joardar, Lakshita Narang and Anjali Rohilla.

But they cannot be complacent as Chandigarh University and Jain University (Bengaluru) will give good competition with top players in their ranks. The latter has Yashaswini Ghorpade, who combined with Suhana to reach the top spot in ITTF rankings of the U-19 girls in 2022, is a force to reckon with, and she will have company in Anargaya Manjunath, Aditi Joshi, Karrruna Gajendran and Charvi Phalgun.

Trisha Gogoi, the local girl, is a part of the Chandigarh varsity, and she has Manasi Chiplunkar, Sampada Bhiwandkar, Koushiki Dasgupta and Jitakhee Mazumdar for support.

But all these teams cannot ignore the threat lurking around in SRM University from Chennai, who won the title in the last edition. Kavyashree Baskar, Gladlyn Flora, and Kaashvi Gupta are a handful to pose problems to any team in the fray. All of them will be wary of SRM and Adamas, who finished runners-up in Lucknow.

According to Competition Manager N. Ganeshan, K.R. Manjunatha will be the referee for the event with support coming from Blue Badge, International and National umpires.

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