The Singapore women's team retained the gold medal in the Commonwealth Games table tennis, blanking India 3-0 in the final at the Yamuna Sports Complex here on Friday.
Indian men's team, the defending champion, failed to raise its game a notch higher and lost 3-1 to a resurgent England in the semifinals. India will meet Nigeria for the bronze.
Playing against a team with five players in the top 25 in the world must have been a learning experience for the Indian women. To be fair, the Indian eves played with a free mind, knowing pretty well that it could be nigh impossible to defeat the world champion. So they did what they know best — fight hard.
Mouma Das took a game against World No.3 Tianwei Feng in the first match while Shamini lost in three straight games to Yuegu Wang (world No.5). In the second rubber, Poulomi Ghatak took a game off Jiawei Li (World No.23) in the third and last match.
England's victory over India was as much psychological as anything else. After Sharath Kamal's drubbing of teenager Liam Pitchford that gave India a head-start, it was left to Amalraj to find a way to beat Paul Drinkhall, ranked 59 places above him at 122, in the second rubber. Amalraj did match the 19-year-old stroke for stroke after a nervous beginning. Slowly and steadily, the Indian clawed his way back twice from arrears to take the match to the fifth game.
Leading 5-0, Amalraj was given a point penalty for wrong service and then again at 10-5 for the same reason. Tension gripped Amalraj even as Drinkhall kept attacking from the back of the table with immaculate accuracy, and Amalraj began to panic. He lost six straight points to lose the tie.
Though fully recovered from the right shoulder injury, Subhajit Saha, replacing Soumyadeep Roy, was not at his best in the third rubber against Andrew Baggaley, who has been a Games medalist in the ‘02 and ‘06 editions. Saha succumbed meekly 11-4, 12-10, 11-8.
With the tie heavily loaded (1-2) in favour of England, India looked up to Sharath to show the way. The top-ranked Indian sparkled in patches, but it was Drinkhall who dominated the proceedings. His blocks and attacking play from the back provided little chance to Sharath.
The 11-9, 11-5, 10-12, 11-4 victory put England in the final where it will take on Singapore.
“Amalraj's match was very crucial. He could have set the momentum for us. But Drinkhall played really well. He was determined as the momentum was with them,” a crestfallen Sharath said.
Keywords: Commonwealth Games 2010