The event, allotted to the Rajasthan Table Tennis Association, had to be put off from November to December with the state assembly elections dates clashing with the championships preparations.
Nevertheless, the number of entries received, touching around 650, and the enthusiasm of participants indicate not only the growing popularity of the sport, but also the significance of the national event.
As per the draw, teams from West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh have been given the top slots in the Sub-Junior Boys and Girls categories, while PSPB Academy and West Bengal in the Cadet Boys and Girls sections lead the group charts.
However, what happened last year need not be repeated this year as, on a given day, any individual or a group of paddlers can make the groupings ridiculously topsy-turvy.
Since the format in these age-group events is such that it gives a great opportunity to each and every player, representing different states, to have a go at their rivals. With four singles and one
doubles rubber to play, every team, barring a few, can think about having a real shot at the titles.
Yet, what makes the West Bengal squads in both the sub-junior Boys and Cadet Girls sections favourites yet another time is their steady supply line. But what one saw at last week's North Zone National Ranking championships at Delhi where the issue of overage cropped up to spoil the show could come into play here.
Ronit Bhanja, who won the sub-junior title in the boys' section, had come under a cloud after he failed to submit his birth certificate when the TTFI went on a surprise verification-spree.
Bhanja's title trophy was withheld, points not added to the ranking list and he was told to submit his birth proof documents here at Ajmer.
He would be spearheading West Bengal's attack once again and, if he fails to provide valid documents before the start, he would be suspended, spelling doom for his team. There were three other overage cases at Delhi and it remains to be seen how many of them are going to participate here, though their teams have sent in the entries.
The TTFI has asked the four players to report the Medical Jurist at the Jawaharlal Nehru Government Hospital, which has been approached to conduct the medical tests.
The PSPBA, who practice day in and day out at the Academy here, know the conditions too well to exploit and retain the title in Cadet Boys.
Similarly, Andhra led by Naina, is too strong a team to be dismissed at this juncture. Then the paddlers from North Bengal, Maharashtra ('A' team particularly), Tamil Nadu and all those eight group leaders are eminently capable.
With the singles events slated to begin from Friday, the players to watch out for in Cadet Boys are Udit, Abhijeet, Rohan and Sohan, all from West Bengal. As for the Cadet Girls, it could be anybody's crown with Tulika Roy, Swastika Ghosh, Tanishi Kirtani and Anushree Kutumble vying with one another. Manav Thakkar, Jeet Chandra and Akash Nath, besides Bhanja and Moumita Dutta, Naina, Abhinaya Ramesh and Aishwarya Pathak are a few names from among the boys and girls in the sub-junior sections, who have the ability to turn the tables against one another.
Incidentally, these are all top-ranked paddlers competing here for the top prize.
--IBNS (Posted on 23-12-2013)