Amitabha Das Sharma
GUWAHATI: Petroleum will seek to continue its dominance in the 71st edition of the National and inter-State table tennis championship, which began here on Wednesday.
Petroleum, which has been winning the men’s title since 2002 and the women’s crown since 1999, is expected to retain the honours, considering it has almost all the top names in the country in its ranks.
The opening day saw the fancied sides warming up for the tougher matches ahead with easy wins in the first stage or the group league of the inter-State event.
The biggest absence in the men’s team championship is the former champion and long-standing runner-up Railways. Dena Bank, riding on the excellence of India No. 4 R. Abhishek, is the second institutional side after Petroleum. Railways women would be working hard to challenge the aspiring titlist.
Achanta Sharath Kamal, the defending champion, will be leading Petroleum’s fortunes in the men’s section. The others in the team include former National champion and SAG titlist Soumyadip Roy and a couple of younger players like Zubin Kumar and Anthony Amalraj.
The fifth slot in the men’s team had a shade of controversy as former champion, Subhajit Saha came from much below in the National rankings (15th) to supersede strong claimant Sourav Chakraborty.
The latter is currently ranked sixth in the country and had also won the inter-Petroleum championship. But the Petroleum Sports Promotion Board selectors preferred to look at Saha’s better international ranking and also considered the brief injury lay-off that apparently cost the player his position in the national ranking.
Men’s team (stage I): Round II: Group C: Orissa bt Puducherry 3–0; Group D: Kerala bt Bihar 3–0; Group E: J&K bt Meghalaya 3-1; Group F: West Bengal bt Delhi 3– 0; Group G: Maharashtra-A bt Tripura 3-0; MP bt Nagaland 3-0; Group H: TN bt HP 3-0.
Round I: Group A: PSPB beat Chandigarh 3–0; Karnataka bt Sikkim 3-0; Group B: North Bengal bt Mizoram 3-0; Chhattisgarh bt Jharkhand 3-0; Group C: Gujarat bt Orissa 3-0; Rajasthan bt Puducherry 3–0; Group D: Dena Bank bt Kerala 3–0; UP bt Bihar 3–0; Group E: Haryana bt J&K 3–0; Maharashtra bt Meghalaya 3-0; Group F: West Bengal bt Punjab 3–0; Delhi bt Manipur 3–0; Group G: AP bt Nagaland 3-0; MP bt Tripura 3-0; Group H: HP bt Uttaranchal 3-0.
Women’s team (stage I): Round II: Group B: North Bengal bt Punjab 3–0; Group C: Maharashtra–A bt MP 3-0; Group D: W. Bengal bt Haryana 3–0; Group E: Gujarat bt Delhi 3-2; Group F: Railways bt AP 3-2; Uttaranchal bt Tripura 3-0; Group G: Maharashtra–B bt Assam 3-1; Rajasthan bt Puducherry 3–; Group H: TN bt UP 3-0; Jharkhand bt Meghalaya 3-1.
Round I: Group A: PSPB bt Chandigarh 3-0; Group B: North Bengal bt Chhattisgarh 3–0; Group C: Maharashtra A bt Kerala 3-0; Group D: West Bengal bt Bihar 3-0; Group E: Gujarat bt HP 3-0; Group F: Railways bt Uttaranchal 3-0; AP bt Tripura 3-0; Group G: Rajasthan bt Maharashtra B 3–1; Assam bt Puducherry 3–0; Group H: TN bt Jharkhand 3–0; UP bt Meghalaya 3-0.