The last-minute withdrawal of Iran has left the field open for India and Chinese Taipei to battle it out for the honours in the $10,000 ITTF Global Junior Circuit Indian Open table tennis championship beginning here on Wednesday.

Unlike United Arab Emirates, Iran pulled out even after confirming the preliminary and final entries.

According to Competition Manager Mohamed Dawlatly, an e-mail message from the Iranian Table Tennis Federation on Tuesday afternoon stated that it regretted the withdrawal since it could not find “suitable airline bookings” for its players.

As per the International Table Tennis Federation rules, Iran could well be fined $130 for each of its four entries.

Indian teams clear favourites

The Indian teams will be the clear favourites. India has fielded two teams each in junior and cadet sections.

Though the title-sweep in the cadet section is a foregone conclusion, India will have to work a little harder for the ‘golden' sweep in the junior category.

In all, 10 titles will be at stake consisting of four team, four individual and two junior doubles crowns.

The boys' trio of Soumyajit Ghosh (with a junior world ranking of 25), Harmeet Desai (28th) and G. Sathiyan (48th) will face its stiffest test against the Chinese Taipei's duo of Lee Chun-Lin (66th) and Lai Yi-Yao (87th).

The absence of the third Taipei player means India will claim the third singles by default.

In fact, the absence of a player has pushed Taipei to the third place in the seeding-list behind the two Indians teams. India ‘B', comprising Sourav Saha (109th), Sushmit Sriram (189th),

Sudhanshu Grover and Vivek Bhargava, has the potential to give the host a possible 1-2 finish. In the girls' section, too, Taipei has fielded just two players — Yeh Tung-Li (104th) and Lee Chun-Hui (179th). Here, an in-form Manika Batra (28th), Ankita Das (92nd) Mallika Bhandarkar (111th) should justify their seeding.

Third seed Thailand will have to contend with the India's ‘B' team comprising N. Vidya, Nikhat Banu, N. Priya and Reeth Tennison.

Other countries in the fray like Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka are not expected to be among the medals in the junior section.

In the cadet team championships, India is set to fill the top two spots.

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