Veteran paddler Sharath Kamal, who is the top ranked Indian in the world, will lead India’s challenge at the World Table Tennis Championships beginning from May 29 to June 5 at Dusseldorf.
Besides the 53rd ranked Kamal, the male members of the squad include Soumyajit Ghosh (83), G. Sathiyan and Harmeet Desai (95). The women players in the squad are Madhurika Patkar, the reigning national champion, Manika Batra (103), Mouma Das and rookie Ayhika Mukherjee, who will make her maiden world championships appearance.
The world championships are all about individual performances, and the eight Indian members will have a task on hand to make a mark at the eight-day event.
The 34-year-old Kamal, who could be playing his last world championships (individuals), will have to shoulder most of the burden of the eight-member squad. In the previous edition two years ago in Suzhou (China), the Indian spearhead was in a roaring form before pulling himself out in the third round because of a hip injury.
The reigning national champion was in good form during the Asian Championships in China recently and India almost knocked the Japanese out in the quarterfinals.
The Indian team will also play doubles in both sections apart from the mixed doubles where Manika Batra and Madhurika Patkar with pair up with G. Sathiyan and Harmeet Desai. In men’s doubles, the first pair will be Kamal and Sathiyan while the second will be Ghosh and Desai. As for women’s doubles, Ayhika will partner Madurika while Manika-Mouma duo will form India’s second pair.
The squad, accompanied by foreign coach Massimo Costantini, had reached Dusseldorf more than a fortnight ago and is going through an intense training camp at a private facility. The foreign expert, along with former national champion Soumyadeep Roy, who was drafted in by TTFI as the second coach, are training the paddlers for the most important event on the ITTF calendar.
Talking from the training base, Massimo said that the team members were in good spirits.
“We have had good training sessions since we arrived here on May 11. The players are put to strenuous sessions with different set of players-defensive and offensive-thanks to the sparring partners that have been made available to us here,” the coach was quoted as saying by PTI.
Asked about the prospects of Indian players, Massimo said: “Well, I will be happy if our players put their best foot forward and try hard. The worlds are the toughest competition and a couple of good rounds mean you are closer to the round of 32. We will see how it goes from there.