PSPB's men retain title, women regain crown
The formidable Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB) men trounced West Bengal 3-0 to extend their reign over the Barna Ballack Cup for yet another year while their women regained the Jayalakshmi Cup after beating North Bengal 3-0 in the team finals of the 75th Senior National Table Tennis Championships at the Patliputra Sports Complex here on Wednesday.
The domination of their men's team was never in doubt, thanks to a solid line-up they boast of.
However, there was a lingering feeling about their women's team consistency in spite of the quality they always unveiled.
It has often misfired and PSPB women had very badly lost to Maharashtra A at Lucknow in 2009 and at Raipur to Delhi last year, to cite a few recent examples.
In fact, there were a few occasions in today's final giving rise to a similar situation, particularly when national champion K. Shamini took on the challenge of North Bengal's Sagarika Mukherjee.
The 16-year-old gave enough scare to spoil Shamini's reputation before the latter could overcome that phase with a fine forehand winner in the decider of the second rubber.
Shamini was somewhat slow to start off and was pushed to the corner by the young North Bengal paddler.
The PSPB player brought in variety and put on display an array of brilliant strokes on both the flanks.
Yet, while leading 2-1, Shamini was given a jolt when Sagarika, blocking and serving well, restored parity after the fourth game.
In the decider, the lead kept changing hands quickly but Shamini held on to her nerves to romp home.
Probably, the use of long pimple racquet by Sagariaka posed certain problems and Shamini took time to adjust her game.
"I couldn't come to terms with the slowness of the ball initially," admitted Shamini after the match.
What followed was a simple annihilation by Ankita Das who disposed of Sukanya Bose, the weak link in North Bengal's ranks, in straight games of 11-9, 11-8, 11-7 in less than 15 minutes.
The team's ploy to rest Neha Aggarwal and instead pit Ankita, a North Bengal player, against the 'state' team worked wonders for PSPB. Earlier, Madhurika Patkar was also off colour in the first rubber against Nandita Saha, but Madhurika managed to ward off the threat. Nandita, who employed flat serves to bemuse Madhurika, managed to take two games off her opponent.
In the men's team final, Soumyadeep Roy took the first game off Soumyajit Ghosh, giving some glimpses of his old self. But Ghosh, who just returned from Sweden after playing a string of league matches, arrested any further advance by Roy in a fine close-to-the table display with powerful shots. The old legs of Roy couldn't compete with the younger and well-oiled Ghosh's who won 3-1.
Achanta Sharath Kamal, who is here with a mission to "take his rightful place," accounted for Sourav Saha without any inhibition. Absolutely looking fit, the top-ranked Indian, currently No. 50 in the world, demolished Sourav Saha 11-8, 11-7, 11-2 in 12 minutes to put PSPB 2-0 up.
Then Anthony Amal Raj, after a fine rally at 11-10 in the third game, who returned from Poland, beat Sougata Sarkar in straight games for a 3-0 sweep.
Sarkar, down 0-2, saved a match point at 9-10 but could not capitalize on it as he erred at the net soon after to give service back to Amal Raj who did not waste any time to send down a powerful forehand winner after some fine rally from both. It was all over bar the shouting for the West Bengal camp as the PSPB players exchanged handshakes and high-fives in celebration.
Results (Team event finals):
Men: Petroleum Sports Promotion Board bt West Bengl 3-0 (Soumyajit Ghosh bt Soumyadeep Roy 16-14, 7-11, 11-7, 11-4, A. Sharath Kamal bt Sourav Saha 11-8, 11-7, 11-2, A. Amal Raj bt Sougata Sarkar 11-9, 11-8, 12-10).
Women: Petroleum Sports Promotion Board bt North Bengal 3-0 (Madhurika Patkar bt Nandita Saha 6-11, 11-6, 12-10, 9-11, 11-5, K. Shamini bt Sagarika Mukherjee 9-11, 11-5, 11-7, 10-12, 11-8, Ankita Das bt Sukanya Bose 11-9, 11-8, 11-7).
(Posted on 09-01-2014)