If the triumph of Nikhat Banu and Karnam Spoorthy in the women’s doubles of the senior National table tennis championships at Raipur was a shot in the arm for AP, more achievements came close on its heels at the Cadets and sub-junior Nationals at Gandhidham, Gujarat.
The sub-junior girls squad comprising A. Sreeja, Varuni Jaiswal, her cousin Naina and K.V.V. Vaishali clinched the gold in the team event. The cadet girls’ squad consisting of twins V. Sasya and V. Laasya, Kazol Sunar and Mahita Chowdary bagged the silver. In individual events, Sreeja and Sasya won the sub-junior and cadet bronze medals respectively. The sub-junior doubles honours were shared by Sreeja/Naina and Vaishali/Varuni as losing semi-finalists. While the girls got their due in terms of recognition, what went largely unnoticed was the performance of the boys, who also acquitted themselves quite honourably. Of the eight-member squad, none was ranked nationally but three made it to the main draw, viz; V. Hari Krishna, S. Fidel R. Snehit and Harsh Lahoti. Hari thrashed Parth Virmani 11-8, 11-3, 11-9 before bowing out to Lalhunhlua, ranked eighth, 4-11, 4-11, 3-11 in the second round.
Snehit got the better of A. Irshad 11-9, 13-11, 9-11, 11-9 in the opening round subdued Shiven Benga 5-11,11-6,2-11,11-5,11-7 in the next. In the prequarter-finals, Snehit was on the threshold of victory, having logged nine points already but buckled against Manav Thakkar 8-11,4-11,11-9,11-8,9-11.
Harsh overcame Rakesh 11-9,9-11,13-11,15-13 in the first round, Sarabjit Guha 11-2,6-11,11-3,11-8 in the second, but lost to eventual finalist Arjun Ghosh 4-11, 4-11, 3-11. Hari Krishna is now India No. 7, while Fidel being very young has at least another two years in this age category to climb the rankings. In the team events, where AP fared fairly well, Harsh and Ali Mohammed combined well as did Snehit and Hari Krishna in the doubles. Among the cadets, Mohammed Ali, B. Vishnu from Hyderabad, P. Jayasurya and D. Najeeb from Visakhapatnam went without laurels but nonetheless strived hard.
The AP squads were coached by Maduri Venugopal and K. Sridhar, while Dr. S. Ramu was manager. For Venugopal it was double delight, as his Gujrati Seva Mandal wards Nikhat had won the women’s doubles crown and Varuni, the sub-junior girls team gold and individual bronze. Andhra Pradesh Table Tennis Association President V. Bhaskar Ram and Secretary S.M. Sultan were overjoyed by the run of success from their paddlers.