Petroleum wins the men’s title as expected beating West Bengal in the final

Finally, it took a 17-year-old girl to signal the end of Delhi’s wait for its historic first ladies team title in 74 editions of the National table tennis championship.

Manika Batra, still short of attaining the age to hold a driving licence, steered Delhi past mighty Petroleum with two memorable wins for a sensational 3-1 triumph on Thursday.

It was a dream finish for Delhi that upstaged formidable West Bengal and defending champion Maharashtra ‘A’ on the way.

Punishing an overconfident Petroleum for resting National champion Poulomi Ghatak and using the services of K. Shamini only for one singles rubber, Manika Batra and Neha Agarwal made London Olympic qualifier Ankita Das rue two unexpected defeats.

Delhi last won men’s team title as host of the 1983 edition.

“We wanted to give our younger players a chance (in the final) but our ploy backfired,” said Petroleum coach Arup Basak explaining of the decision to leave out Poulomi.

Later, the Petroleum men played without Sharath Kamal but still whipped West Bengal 3-0 to win the men’s team title for the 11th time in succession.

The trio of Olympian Soumyajit Ghosh, National champion A. Amalraj and former champion Soumyadeep Roy were never threatened in the final that lasted around an hour.

Though the triumph for the Petroleum men was a long foregone conclusion, the upset victory for Delhi was hard to predict. The Delhi girls had not shown any great form this season but came out far more inspired against a side that took many factors for granted.

Upbeat on learning the news of facing Pooja Saharabudhe and Ankita in the first two singles instead of Poulomi and Shamini, the Delhi girls believed that it could well be their day.

After a nervous start, Manika ended her string of defeats to Pooja with a fighting performance. In fact, the latter had made the Petroleum team by beating Manika last week in Delhi. But on this day, the lanky Manika towered over Pooja.

In the battle between two Olympians, Neha let the opening game slip but bounced back to win the last three points of the extended second game. Ankita, lacking the necessary experience to handle the mounting pressure, grew impatient and played right into the hands of her steady rival.

As expected, Shamini dismissed Delhi’s Riti Shankar in quick time in the third singles.

Manika returned to play her best match of the week. With Ankita expected to come hard at her, Manika intelligently varied the length and direction of the returns. Her waiting-game paid off as Ankita committed numerous unforced errors.

Manika won the first game on her third game point, after saving two. In the second, the Delhi teenager bounced back from 2-6 to lead 9-7.

Ankita won a point but handed over the game after two unforced errors.

Thereafter, the Bengal girl switched to the self-destruct mode to render the third game hopelessly one-sided.

The results (Team championship, finals):

Men: Petroleum beat West Bengal 3-0 (Soumyajit Ghosh bt Sourav Saha 12-10, 11-5, 11-8; A. Amalraj bt Sougatha Sarkar 11-5, 11-9, 11-5; Soumyadeep Roy bt Souvik Kar 11-3, 11-4, 5-11, 11-4).

Women: Delhi beat Petroleum 3-1 (Manika Batra bt Pooja Sahasrabudhe 4-11, 11-7, 12-10, 11-9; Neha Aggarwal bt Ankita Das 11-13, 12-10, 11-5, 11-9; Riti Shankar lost to K. Shamini 8-11, 6-11, 11-13; Manika bt Ankita 15-13, 11-8, 11-2).

Final placing:

Men: 1. Petroleum, 2. West Bengal, 3-4. Haryana, Gujarat, 5-8. North Bengal, Assam, Railways, Tamil Nadu, 9. Andhra Pradesh, 10. Maharashtra ‘A’, 11, Karnataka, 12. Chhattisgarh, 13-16. Orissa, Maharashtra ‘B’, Goa and Punjab.

Women: 1. Delhi, 2. Petroleum, 3-4. Maharashtra ‘A’, Tamil Nadu, 5-8. Gujarat, West Bengal, Railways and North Bengal, 9. Maharashtra ‘B’, 10. Madhya Pradesh, 11. Andhra Pradesh, 12. Assam, 13-16. Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Chandigarh.

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