ACHANTA SHARATH KAMAL, world ranked No. 53, will carry the Indian hopes of clinching a medal and a podium finish at the 2017 World Table Tennis Championships, to be held at Dusseldorf from May 29 to June 5.
Since the championships are all about individual performances, the Indian members will have to try hard to make an impression in the eight-day event.
The other male members of the squad include Soumyajit Ghosh (No. 83), G. Sathiyan and Harmeet Desai (No. 95) while the women players are Madhurika Patkar, the reigning national champion, Manika Batra (No. 103), Mouma Das and Ayhika Mukherjee, the rookie, who will make her maiden world championships appearance.
Undoubtedly, the top-ranked Indian in the world will have to shoulder most of the burden of the eight-member squad, comprising four men and women paddlers, besides his own fans’ expectations at home. In the previous edition two years ago in at Suzhao (China), the Indian spearhead was in a roaring form before pulling himself out in the third round because of a hip injury.
For the 34-year-old Indian, who could probably be playing his last world championships (individuals), the event in Germany presents a good opportunity to make a real good impression and he would try all tricks in his bags to achieve glory. The reigning national champion was in good form during the Asian Championships in China recently and Team India almost knocked the Japanese out in the quarterfinals.
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.
The Indian team will also play the 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 doubles, the first pair will be Sharath and Sathiyan while the second will be Ghosh and Desai. As for women doubles, Ayhika will partner Madurika while Manika-Mouma duo will form India’s second pair.
Talking from the training base, Massimo said that the team members were in good spirit and raring to go.
“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,” said the coach.
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.”
Get the latest in the world of Sports, Teams, and Players! Free Delivery to your Inbox.