Over the past few years, it has become increasingly fashionable for the country’s leading players in several individual disciplines to give the National championship a miss.

Badminton, boxing, tennis and wrestling are some of the disciplines in this category. It is in this background that table tennis stands out for the commitment of the players to turn out for the flagship event.

When the 74th edition of the National championship opens here on Monday, the top-16 ranked men and women will be on view. Petroleum, winner of the men’s team title 16 times, looks set to continue its unbeaten streak that began in 2003. With the creamy layer of Indian talent at its service, Petroleum remains a firm favourite for the title.

Unlike the championships in the past decade, this edition promises to be more exciting since the title-race is not just limited to Petroleum and arch-rival Railways.

The imposing presence of defending champion A. Amalraj, runner-up Sharath Kamal, Souymajit Ghosh, Sanil Shetty and Soumyadeep Roy makes Petroleum the one to beat. Teams like Gujarat, North Bengal, Railways and West Bengal provide the depth to the field of 34 teams.

The competition in the ladies section is likely to be closer. Last year, Maharashtra ‘A’ stunned 15-time champion Petroluem in the semifinals before taking the title. The individual events that commence on January 10, promise intriguing battles between the well-trained youngsters and the seasoned names.

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