SPORT

A momentous occasion for ABA

GUWAHATI Jan. 28. The cream of Indian badminton with the exception of Pullela Gopi Chand is expected to be here for the 58th Inter-State and 67th Senior National badminton championships beginning here at the Kanaklata Indoor Stadium and the Northeast Frontier Railway Indoor Stadium, Maligaon, from Wednesday.

Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB) is the reigning champion in the teams' events having won the Rahimtoola Cup for men and Chadha Cup for women in the last National held at Lucknow.

As Air-India, last year's women's team championship runner-up, failed to make it to the main draw, Andhra Pradesh, the South Zone champion, has been seeded No. 2. In the men's section, PSPB is the top seed and Railways, last year's runner-up, is the second seed.

Gujarat, which made it to the semifinals of the men's category last time, lost out to Maharashtra from West Zone.

Banks' Sports Control Board (BSCB) has qualified as the No. 2 from the institutional side in the men's section while Life Insurance Corporation of India has made it as the second team in the women's section.

The team championship will be over in the first two days--Wednesday and Thursday--before the individual championship in the men's and women's singles and doubles and mixed doubles will be gone through. The individual finals are slated for February 4.

Chetan B. Anand of PSPB heads the ranking list in the men's section while B.R. Meenakshi of Karnataka is on top of the heap in the women's side. Defending men's champion Abhinn Shyam Gupta is in the third spot in the ranking as Aparna Popat, expected to defend the crown in the ladies' singles category, is currently at No. 5.

For the host, the Assam Badminton Association (ABA), it will be a momentous occasion hosting the championship in its golden jubilee year. Having hosted the last championship in 1972 when Prakash Padukone won the men's singles title, the championship comes to this historic city after 29 years.

The good news from Assam's point of view is that its best player, Dipankar Bhattacharjee, is ready to take the court. Having missed four to five Nationals, it remains to be seen whether this talented player can bring back the old magic to the courts after such a long gap.

The Kanaklata Indoor Stadium has two courts with synthetic surface and most of the major contests will be played here. The Maligaon Indoor Stadium has courts with newly laid wooden surface. The women's team championship till the semifinals will be played there and the final will be at the main venue. All the men's team events will be at the Kanaklata Indoor Stadium.

The draw: Team championship: Rahimtoola Cup (men): PSPB vs. Delhi (NZ), UP (EZ) vs. Maharashtra (WZ), Kerala (SZ) vs. Banks' Sports Control Board (II), Assam (NE) vs. Railways (CZ). Chadha Cup (women): PSPB vs. LIC (II), Bengal (EZ) vs. Assam (NE), Maharashtra (WZ) vs. Delhi (NZ), Railways (CZ) vs. Andhra Pradesh (SZ).

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