Alappuzha: The UTT 84th Inter-State Sub-Junior and Cadet Championships in the Youth Girls Under-15 category, starting at the YMCA’s N.C. John Memorial Halls tomorrow looks to have the same intensity as one had witnessed during the last Nationals held at Dharamsala in 2019.
Devoid of any team competitions in the last two seasons due to Covid-19, the enthusiasm the kids are displaying is natural. Yet, the 27 states that are competing have something in common—the paddlers, most undoubtedly, are certainly enjoying the exposure of being the first-timers in the hunt for team glory!
But with no Under-11 and Under-15 team events possible as per the International Table Tennis Federation rules, the girls would be somewhat disappointed. Nevertheless, they will enjoy competing in the singles that will run concurrently.
The draw that took place in the morning has placed Delhi as the No. 1 team, based on the cumulating points of their top two paddlers, and drawn in Group A. Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Gujarat following the leader in that order in Groups B to H. There was a tie between Assam and West Benga, having 40 points each, for the Group D topper, and Assam earned the spot in the tie-breaker.
Following the team draw, the singles qualification draws in Under-15, Under-13 and Under-11 took place–players both U-15 and U-13 were divided into 56 groups, while U-11 had 45 groups. The 56 group qualifiers from both sections will join the top-eight ranked players in the main draw, played on a knockout basis. However, all the Under-11 girls will go through the group qualifications.
The turnout of the girls from 27 states across all three sections comes to 556 (202 in U-15, 208 in U-13, and 136 in U-11), indicating the significance of the Nationals which the Table Tennis Association of Kerala (TTAK) is hosting. Last year, TTAK hosted the Youth and Junior Nationals at the same venue. Though Alappuzha has been experiencing unusual heat during the daytime, the weather does not seem to be a deterrent for the youngsters, who are focusing on the matches, the backwaters and the surrounding greenery!
Sayanika Maji and Avisha Karmakar of Delhi—both in good form—can turn the corner against other contenders with their skills and attacking play to stake their claim for the team trophy. They have a bright young player in Vanshika Mudgal with Prisha Goel, who has a handful of international medals under her belt, to support.
But Maharashtra’s Jennifer Varghese will lead the charge in the company of Bhoota Raina, Ikshika Umate and Divyanshi Bhowmick, and the first named has the knack to pose stiffer challenges to any team in the fray. But one cannot brush aside UP as Suhani Mahajan and Avani Tripathi, with Anika Gupta and Yashika Tiwari playing the supporting role. However, the onus will be on Suhani and Avani to deliver the goods. One can also expect tough challenges from teams like West Bengal, Assam or, for that matter, Tamil Nadu, who have players of the calibre to upset the applecart.
The Competition Manager, N. Ganeshan, said they would use 18 Stag tables in the two halls and balls of the same make. A.S. Kler will be the referee, while Mangesh Mopkar and K.R. Manjunath will assist him. They will have the services of 45 Blue Badge, International and National umpires.
Group A: Delhi, PSPBA and Bihar.
Group B: Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand.
Group C: Maharashtra, Goa and Punjab.
Group D: Assam, Himachal Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.
Group E: West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir and Daman & Diu.
Group F: Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Odisha and Kerala.
Group G: Haryana, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Telangana.
Group H: Gujarat, Chandigarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh.