PSPB benchmark at Table Tennis Nationals

Patna, Jan 6 : The pre-eminence of the Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB), men's team title holders, will be under little threat when they take on rest of the 33 teams in fray for the Platinum Jubilee year AAI-Senior National Table Tennis Championships, getting underway at the Patliputra Indoor Stadium here from Tuesday.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating and the phrase aptly exemplifies the team work of PSPB, who hold sway over the Barna Ballack Cup for years in a row. The firepower in their arsenal is a further confirmation -- Sharath Kamal, Soumyajit Ghosh, Anthony Amal Raj, Sanil Shetty and Harmeet Desai -- of the solidity which most teams can only envy.

But PSPB cannot boast of such lavishness when it comes to Jayalakshmi Cup, which their women will try to wrest. In the last two years, beginning from the Lucknow nationals their women's teams have lost the invincibility, surrendering to Maharashtra and Delhi, in that order. This is, indeed, a thorny issue for PSPB and they will want the team -- comprising Madhurika Patkar, Pooja Sahasrabudhe, Shamini Kumaresan, Neha Aggarwal and Ankita Das -- to sort out here.

Neha who helped Delhi win the team title for the first time at Raipur last year, will be turning out for PSPB and that is a big plus for the title aspirants. However, it does put Delhi in a vulnerable position and, in Neha's absence, they will have to make do with a relatively weak team whose lone star performer is Manika Batra.

West Bengal men, who finished runners-up at Raipur, will once again have to be the bride's maid despite having veteran Soumyadeep Roy, Sourav Saha, Sougata Sarkar, Aanirban Ghosh and Arjun Ghosh in their ranks. They can, at best, hope to reach the final. As for their women, they have a good bunch, led by Mouma Das and Mousmi Pal, but there is a big if about their team with Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh breathing down their neck.

Teams here have been divided into eight groups of four or five teams with the second stage, the knockout, beginning the second day, followed by semifinals and finals Thursday. The day will also see qualification matches in singles events.

All these are only side topics as compared to the main focus of the meet - who all are going to be selected for the Commonwealth Games at Glasgow (Scotland) and Asian Games at Incheon (South Korea) later this year. The selection committee members will be here, keenly watching players in action before they go into a huddle. They will pick five each in the men and women's category.

--IANS (Posted on 06-01-2014)

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