After a half-hearted outing of Indian table tennis players at the WTT Star Contender in Doha where mainly Archana Kamath and Sreeja Akula shone, Indian paddlers will set their sights on the biennial continental event – the 2021 Asian Table Tennis Championships which will also take place in the same city. Starting on September 28 in the Lusail Multipurpose Hall, the Asian Championships will end on October 5, 2021 and will also serve as a qualifier for the World Team Championships in 2022.
Table tennis in India has been in the throes of controversy since the end of the Tokyo Olympics and Manika Batra entered muddy waters with the Indian Table Tennis Federation (TTFI) and national coach Soumyadeep Roy against which she made heavy allegations. Excluded from the team by the TTFI as the 2018 Commonwealth Championships gold medalist did not attend the Sonepat national camp, the absence of Manika Batra from the Indian contingent may play a delicate role in the prestigious continental championships .
A controversy that started at the Tokyo Olympics has now reached the Delhi High Court.
Confused with all that is going on in the #ManikaBatra against the TTFI saga? ??
– The bridge (@the_bridge_in) September 26, 2021
Without Manika Batra on board, the Indian team is short of a paddler star but will have veteran Achanta Sharath Kamal (world No.33) and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran (world No.38) to take over the debates of the Doha test. The main windfall for the Indian team this time will be the absence of China from the tournament as the formidable and dominant Chinese team have decided to skip the Asian table tennis championships and choose the “mini-Olympics” or the Games instead. nationals of China, back home. With the Asian Championships and National Games coming very close together, the Chinese team took the wise call to withdraw from the Doha event and prepare for the World Championships instead.
The Indian men’s team has a seasoned side with Sharath Kamal, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, Manav Thakkar (# 134), Harmeet Desai (# 72) and Sanil Shetty (# 247) present while the men’s double will see Sharath Kamal / G . Sathiyan and Manav Thakkar / Harmeet Desai team up. After the brilliant run to the Tokyo Olympics where Sharath Kamal reached the pre-quarters and faced legendary Ma Long, the 39-year-old will be back in action in Doha.
BACK IN BANG💪😍
Extremely happy to win the men’s singles title at the 2021 ITTF Czech International Open in a dominant fashion without losing a set here in Olomouc✌️✌️
It was worth the wait to clinch my 3rd ITTF international title after a 4-year gap😁❤️💪 pic.twitter.com/aIAWCwzVlb
– Sathiyan Gnanasekaran (@sathiyantt) 25 August 2021
Sathiyan has been active and even played in the WTT Star Contender tournament but was not so lucky. Thakkar and Desai also shared the same fate as Sathiyan’s there. All in all, without the Chinese paddlers there to cause trouble, India should hope for a better performance and aspire to the deeper stages of the event and will have plenty of opportunities to cause damage.
The Indian women’s team will have Sutirtha Mukherjee, the 95th player in the world returning to Tokyo, to lead the team. Young Ayhika Mukherjee, Sreeja Akula and Archana Kamath will join Sutirtha. At the WTT Star Contender, Sreeja and Archana were awesome. As Akula defeated 21st World Hyowon Suh of South Korea to qualify for the pre-quarters where she ultimately lost, Archana Kamath took fantastic momentum and beat Miyu Nagasaki in her pre-quarters and took a assault the quarter-finals. The 21-year-old met world No.15 Doo Hoi Kem for a place in the semi-finals and even got off to a good start before succumbing to defeat. Benefiting from good form, these youngsters should make up for the absence of Manika Batra and China in the tournament and take advantage of the opportunities.
The ATTU Asian Table Tennis Championships will see the Indian team compete in no less than seven categories of events – men’s team, men’s doubles, men’s individual, women’s team, women’s doubles, women’s individual and finally, mixed doubles. China won 128 gold medals in this event and Japan is second on the list with just 14 gold, creating a glaring gap and showing why China is the real power in the sport. India has only won the bronze medal once, also in 1976 when Manjit Singh Duo and Vilas Menon won the bronze in men’s doubles. India hasn’t had a chance to win a medal since then, but hopefully things will be better this time around.
Indian table tennis is definitely on the rise and young paddlers have taken gigantic strides and caused upheaval that showcase the promise of their talent. Provided the draws are favorable, the team, even without Batra, has the potential to click and shine in key moments, given the momentum some players are currently enjoying.
Here is the full Indian squad for the 2021 Asian Table Tennis Championships:
Men’s team: Manav Thakkar, Sharath Kamal, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, Harmeet Desai, Sanil Shetty
Double men: Sharath Kamal, G Sathiyan, Manav Thakkar, Harmeet Desai.
Women’s team: Sutirtha Mukherjee, Sreeja Akula, Ayhika Mukherjee, Archana Kamath
Double ladies: Archana Kamath, Sreeja Akula, Sutirtha Mukherjee and Ayhika Mukherjee
Mixed Doubles: Manav Thakkar, Archana Kamath, Harmeet Desai and Sreeja Akula