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Star players’ absence could prove to be boon for marginals

Indore, Jul 11 (UNI) The star casts, which included the likes of A. Sharath Kamal,
Anthony Amalraj and Manika Batra, that had marched up to adorn the
season-opening North Zone at Panchkula is definitely missing from the 11Even
Sports National Ranking (Central Zone) Table Tennis Championships, beginning
at Abhay Prashal here from tomorrow.
But the presence of defending champion Manav Thakkar, runner-up SFR
Snehit and Sanil Shetty is not only encouraging for the organisers but also
helps enliven the proceedings which get underway with men and women
singles, to kick-start the six-day affairs.
With top players participating in Korea Open next week—one of the
preparatory events for the Asian Games in Jakarta—the players have
chosen to skip the second domestic event despite TTFI and the competition
department have tinkered with the schedule to make every player comfortable.
Indeed, this has taken the sheen off the Central Zone somewhat, but those
participating in it would have no complaints at all. After all, it presents a rare
opportunity for those who are knocking at the selectors’ door or on the brink,
to make most of the situation.
The weather at Indore should make it even more compelling for the players
to give off their best as conditions here offer them an ideal platform to relaunch
themselves. For them, the occasion at least provides a spark to log most vital
ranking points to build on further.
That, in a nutshell, sums up the number of entries—1,328 to be precise all
sections put together! This also shows the popularity of the domestic events
which ultimately give shape to the players’ career.
Another wonderful aspect about these domestic events is how the youth and
junior paddlers have grown in stature in recent times. They are ready to
challenge even the best in business and the proof of came when Snehit
knocked Sharath out in the third round at Panchkula. Manav went on to annex
his men singles title for the second time.
Similarly, the absence of Manika Batra should boost confidence of players
like Suthirta Mukherjee, Madhurika Patkar, Pooja Shasrabuddhe, Divya
Deshpande and those juniors who are trying to up the ante by participating in
women singles. Some qualifiers did themselves proud with sterling
performances in the North Zone.
That thinking should also keep them in the hunt because two qualifiers from
each group make it to the main draw. They would be a part of the 16 men and
eight women seeds, along with eight each in Youth and Junior Boys and Girls,
getting direct entry in stage 2.
All participants would also be encouraged by the decent prize purse, totalling
nearly Rs. 6.78 lakh, which is up for grab. The finals of the men and women
singles will be played on Sunday afternoon to help players reach New Delhi to
board their late-night flight to Korea.
As usual, the last two days would be very hectic with Cadet and Sub-Junior
players in action.
According to competition manager N. Ganeshan, 16 STAG tables and flooring
will be used. Veteran Anil Dubey returns as chief referee with T.G. Upadhya and
A. Satheese as his deputies. They will, of course, be assisted by 55 Blue Badge,
international and national referees.
UNI XC-PC BM
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Upbeat Bengal go up against Tripura in Vijay Hazare Trophy tomorrow

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