TABLE TENNIS | Sharath Kamal and Manika to spearhead Indian challenge in Paris

OLYMPICS | Harmeet Desai and Manav Thakkar complete the three-member men’s team, while Sreeja Akula and Archana Kamath make up the squad among women

Published - May 16, 2024 06:03 pm IST - CHENNAI

Manika Batra and A Sharath Kamal’s higher ranking ensured that they selected themselves for the trip to Paris.

Manika Batra and A Sharath Kamal’s higher ranking ensured that they selected themselves for the trip to Paris. | Photo Credit: BISWARANJAN ROUT

As expected, multiple Commonwealth Games medallist A. Sharath Kamal and world No. 24 Manika Batra will spearhead the Indian men’s and women’s team events, respectively, at the Paris Olympics. This will be the first-ever participation of Indian squads at the Games.

According to a release from The Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI), its senior selection committee met in New Delhi on Thursday and picked a six-member squad, besides naming the individuals who would compete in the singles events.

Sharath, Harmeet Desai, and Manav Thakkar will form the three-member men’s team, while Manika Batra, Sreeja Akula and Archana Kamath have been included in the women’s squad.

The “alternate player” in each section would be G. Sathiyan and Ayhika Mukherjee.

In singles, Sharath and Harmeet will compete among men, while it will be Manika and Sreeja among women.

Since the selections were as per the already announced TTFI criteria, three players “selected themselves” because of their consistent performances over time and world rankings.

However, there was a debate over the third player for the women’s squad. After Manika and Sreeja were picked on the back of their higher world rankings (world’s top 50), Archana made it to the team as the third player. The Bengaluru-based paddler edged Ayhika out on several counts, including her world ranking of No. 103, 33 places ahead of the latter.

Ayhika had recently put in a wonderful performance in the World team championships in Busan in February, where she upset World No. 1 Sun Yingsha of China.

Sharath picked himself as the top-ranked Indian at No. 40, while Harmeet (No. 63) and Manav (No. 62) were separated by one slot in world rankings. Though both made it to the team composition, National champion Harmeet got the selectors’ nod for singles based on his international (better win-loss proportion to his participation) and national performances.

Incidentally, Massimo Costantini’s presence as a special invitee at the meeting also added teeth, as the foreign expert’s inputs proved handy in the squad selection.

The teams: Men: A. Sharath Kamal, Harmeet Desai, and Manav Thakkar. Alternate player: G. Sathiyan.

Women: Manika Batra, Sreeja Akula, and Archana Kamath. Alternate player: Ayhika Mukherjee.

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