India will face stiff competition from teams like Singapore and England in the Commonwealth Table Tennis Championship in New Delhi but the host paddlers have the right blend of experience and talent to finish on the podium, feels chief national coach Bhawani Mukherjee.
“We will have to watch out for the teams like Singapore, the current world champions, and England. Our girls have prepared well for the championships and, with a good draw, we can hope to finish on the podium,” said Mukherjee.
World No.4 Tianwei Feng will spearhead the Singaporean challenge while England will hope Joanna Parker, ranked 135, to get the team on the podium.
Mukherjee has pinned his hopes on regular stalwarts like K. Shamini and Mouma Das with able support from local girl Neha Aggarwal who has been in fine form this season after she took Delhi to team title at the Raipur Nationals early this year.
“The girls have had very good training session in China, playing against their regulars at the centre. This should come in handy to our players. Moreover, Mouma has the experience to handle top-ranked players having been in the semifinals in the last championships in Glasgow, Scotland,” he said.
India will be represented by veteran Achanta Sharath Kamal, Soumyajit Ghosh, Anthony Amalraj, Harmeet Desai and Sanil Shetty in the men’s section, while Shamini, Mouma, Neha and Madhurika Patkar will be host’s bet in the women’s category.
The men’s paddlers had an extended stint at Falkenburg Club training centre in Sweden while women’s team went to Zhengding National Table Tennis training base in China to prepare for the prestigious home event to be held at the Thyagraj Stadium from May 5 to 10.
Eight-time national champion, Kamlesh Mehta, who had accompanied the men’s team to Sweden, sounded optimistic about the performance of his wards in the upcoming tournament.
“The boys have had a very good stint in Sweden with sparring partners of different hues. That should stand them in good stead in the Commonwealth Championship,” said Mehta.
Mehta, however, warned that the host paddlers should be wary of Singapore.
“Singapore has good players in Jian Zhan, ranked 25 in the world, and Hu Li, ranked 55 in the world. Unfortunately, none of our players have faced them before. That could be a disadvantage. They will be tough to play and carry the burden of their nation on their shoulders,” he added.