Served by the country's best names in table tennis and badminton, among some others, Petroleum has made a habit of winning the National team titles. In the absence of any meaningful opposition, the Petroleum teams return and retain the titles, year after year.

It will be a similar story when the 73rd National table tennis championship opens at the newly-built Netaji Subhash SAI Sub Centre here on Monday.

The top three ranked men — Sharath Kamal, A. Amal Raj and Subhajit Saha — along with the first five women — Poulomi Ghatak, K. Shamini, Mousumi Paul, Mouma Das and Manika Batra — will turn up for Petroleum. This intimidating line-up effectively ends all interest in the title-race.

The different between the best and rest is huge. Among the rest, there will be battles for pride. In this respect, the ladies section is expected to provide more thrills.

With Railways failing to qualify for a change, Airports Authority of India along with two teams each from Maharashtra and Bengal are set to present some exciting times this week.

AAI will draw its strength from A.V. Nivedita, Nikhat Bhanu, Medha Moitra, Karnam Spoorthy and S. Karthicka. Maharashtra ‘A' will rely on the experience of Divya Deshpande, Mamta Prabhu, Madhurika Patkar and Mallika Bhandarkar while Maharashtra ‘B' looks up to Pooja Sahastrabudhe, Vedika Garg, Prajakta Tipale and Runa Roy.

Last year's runner-up West Bengal will be led by veteran Anandita Chakraborty, in the company of Krittiwika Sinha, Meenu Basak, Sutirtha Mukherjee and Pallavi Kundu. North Bengal gains its strength mainly from Ankita Das and Nandita Saha.

In the men's section, the teams that will try to test Petroleum are, Gujarat consisting of Harmeet Desai, Devesh Karia and Jignesh Jaiswal, North Bengal that includes Soumyajit Ghosh, Raj Mondal and Vaneet Chopra and West Bengal including Sourav Chakraborty, Sourav Saha and Subham Choudhury.

Railways will once again be around with Anirban Nandi, Aman Balgu and Souvik Basu Roy carrying its hopes. Tamil Nadu has left out spearhead G. Sathiyan and L. Sathishwaran since the duo did not play the state championship.

The action will be held over nine tables, placed in a circular playing hall. However, the placement of the halogens, on the wall and not overhead, is likely to cause inconvenience to the players.

The groups: Men: Group ‘A': Petroleum, Assam, Delhi and Manipur. Group ‘B': West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Goa. Group ‘C': Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra ‘B', Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh. Group ‘D': Maharashtra ‘A', Madhya Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Jharkhand. Group ‘E': Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Kerala and Sikkim. Group ‘F': Rajasthan, North Bengal, Punjab and Tripura. Group ‘G': Railways, Karnataka, Bihar and Uttarakhand. Group ‘H': Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Mehgalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Women: Group ‘A': Petroleum, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Group ‘B': West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Haryana. Group ‘C': North Bengal, Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh. Group ‘D': Maharashtra ‘A', Assam, Uttarakhand and Sikkim. Group ‘E': Delhi, Maharashtra ‘B', Bihar and Manipur. Group ‘F': Airports Authority of India, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. Group ‘G': Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Goa. Group ‘H': Jharkhand, Gujarat, Meghalaya and Tripura.

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