After two days of sheer thrill that kept the Table Tennis buffs in Chennai city glued to their seats, the third day of CEAT Ultimate Table Tennis will witness a battle of equals in DHFL Maharashtra United vs Oilmax-Stag Yoddhas in July 15, 2017.
While DHFL Maharashtra United boasts of top foreign draw and World No. 8 Wong Chun Ting in their ranks alongside Liu Jia. The other foreign players Joao Monteiro and Yu Fu are both part of the top 50 in the men’s and women’s category respectively.
Their Indian contingent features a youthful brigade in Harmeet Desai, Ronit Bhanja, Krittwika Sinha Roy and Pooja Sahasrabudhe. Desai brings a great sense of eagerness to win as his own rise has been rather meteoric considering he broke into the top 100 in the world rankings at a very early stage in his career. He will look to showcase his attacking brand of table tennis in the competition.
Ronit Bhanja is another hot prospect from Maharashtra United who has to his credit a 5th place finish at World Junior Circuit finals. Their 23-year-old Krittwika Roy is a Fajr Cup champion and is well known for her all-round game. Rounding off the group of home talents is Pooja Sahasrabudhe, the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games Silver medallist and World TT Championships Gold medallist in the 2nd division.
“We do have a strong team with vibrant set of youthful players. But going by how the League has begun, with some predictable and not so predictable results, I think a lot will depend on how we plan against our opponents,” expressed Coach Arup Basak who helped team India win 13 medals at the Commonwealth Championships 2013 and secure a promotion for his team to the first division in the World Team Championships. He will be joined by foreign coach Ferenc Karsai who is one of the best European coaches.
The Oilmax-Stag Yoddhas, on the other hand, possess the right balance in terms of experience and youth. In Abhishek Yadav and Jubin Kumar, the Yoddhas have two highly talented players who love to attack. Abhishek is only 21 but he has been turning heads in the country with his prowess that includes a bronze in the Asian Youth Games 2013. He is also one of the few players who prefers to employ the pen hold grip. On the other hand, Jubin will be eager to make his mark. The lad from Chandigarh had bagged gold in the men’s category in World Youth Table Tennis Festival (2002-03) held in Hungary.
Manika Batra and Selena Selvakumar complete the set of Indian talent. Manika is currently the highest placed Indian player as per the ITTF World Ranking in the women’s category. It’s of little surprise since she has bagged medals at the Asian and international level and even managed to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. The youngest player in the team, Selena Selvakumar, at the age of 17 has already tasted success in various levels. She won three gold medals in the 2016 Qatar World Junior Circuit and bagged 2 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze in the National Championships 2016.
With a perfect blend of attacking and defensive styles of play, Panagiotis Gionis and Aruna Quadri, — ranked 19th and 29th respectively — will bring their vast international experience to the table. Panagiotis is the most experienced player in the squad at the age of 37 and has represented his country in four consecutive Olympics from 2004 to 2016. His experience will come in handy in crucial moments.
As for the international women, Doo Hoi Kem of Hong Kong has bagged gold in the ITTF World Tour Croatia Open 2016 and she will be a very tough opponent to beat. Partnering the world No. 28 Hoi Kem is Polina Mikhailova of Russia, currently ranked 64th in the world. “Our team players complement each other. While we have players who possess great defensive skill, we also have those with fierce attacking abilities that makes us a perfect mix. The versatility of our youth and experience gives us confidence for a positive start,” expressed coach Sandeep Gupta. He will be joined by Vesna Ojstersek, who was the head coach of Slovenia’s national women team for 6 years.