Despite missing some leading players, the 60th National squash championship, beginning at the Calcutta Racket Club here on Thursday, promises to be exciting with seven-time men’s champion Saurav Ghosal defending his title. Joshna Chinappa, given the pride of place in the women’s section and in the absence of National champion Dipika Pallikal, is expected to be the front-runner to regain the title in the event which she dominated not very long ago.

Harinder Pal Sandhu, 76th in the PSA ranking, is not only seeded No. 2 but is expected to meet the top seed in the final. The absence of Siddharth Suchde, ranked 45th, and Dipika, the first Indian to be among the top-10 in the world, will be felt, but then the rest of the talent will make it up with their presence.

“It is important for all top-ranked players to play in the biggest and the most important domestic tournament,” said Ghosal, who won his maiden title in 2004 after losing in the final to Ritwik Bhattacharya the previous year. Since then, the Kolkata-born Ghosal has won the title for the past six years in a row. “This is the one tournament I like to play in India because I can motivate and inspire so many youngsters who take part in this tournament. When I was young, I always watched the top players and learnt a lot from their game,’’ he said.

Ghosal will be playing Gaurav Nandrajog of Delhi in the second round and probably the winner of the match between Vikas Jangra and Ravi Dixit in the semifinals. Sandhu will have Sandeep Jangra, Ramit Tandon and Mahesh Mangaonkar in his half.

Joshna, who is coming off an injury, should find it easy to reach the final where it is expected that Anaka Alankamony, one of the top juniors, will provide her with stiff resistance. In fact, Anaka, who lost to Dipika in the final last year, will look to pull it off in the summit clash.

Apart from Dipika, Aparajitha Balamurukan will also be missing the National.

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