With the conclusion of the weeklong National training camp at Bengaluru’s Padukone-Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence on Monday, all eyes are on the panel of table tennis selectors to announce the Indian squad for the Commonwealth Games at Birmingham in July-August this year.
The four selectors — S. Ramaswamy, Rajat Kathuria, N.R. Indu and Archana Vishwanath — arrived at the venue on the penultimate day of the camp, on Sunday, indicating it was not necessary for them to watch the players closely in action before making up their minds ahead of Tuesday’s likely announcement.
To finalise a four-man team, eight players — Sharath Kamal (National rank 1), G. Sathiyan (8), Sanil Shetty (2), Harmeet Desai (3), Manush Shah (4), Manav Thakkar (5) Anirban Ghosh (6) and Fidel R. Snehit (11) — were called for the camp.
Similarly, for the four-player women’s squad, Manika Batra (33), Archana Kamath (37), Sreeja Akula (1), Reeth Rishya (2), Diya Chitale (3), Swastika Ghosh (4), Ayhika Mukherjee (8) and Sutirtha Mukherjee (9) were invited.
Going by the recent show of intent of the selectors, Sharath, Sathiyan, Harmeet, Sanil, Manika, Archana, Sreeja, and Reeth could make the cut. Among these, only Sanil could face a remote threat from fellow left-hander Manush.
In the Commonwealth Games, a maximum of three singles each in men and women, plus two pairs each in doubles events are permitted from a country.
In all likelihood, as in 2018, India is set to field Sharath, Sathiyan, and Harmeet in singles and the combinations of Sharath-Sathiyan and Harmeet-Sanil. The only change could come only if Manush replaces Sanil.
In 2018 India opted for Manika, Madhurika Patkar and Mouma Das in singles besides the pairs of Manika-Mouma and Sutirtha-Pooja Sahasrabudhe. This time, it could well be Manika, Sreeja, and Reeth in singles. In doubles, Manika-Archana and Sreeja-Reeth appear as obvious choices. In mixed doubles, too, Sathiyan-Archana and Sharath-Sreeja will turn up.
Interestingly, this month, the Committee of Administrators (CoA) highlighted TTFI’s selection-related wrong-doings on its website and elaborated on how some deserving players were left out.
However, this time, Manika and Archana are among the probables, despite insufficient points in singles to meet the laid-down eligibility criteria. But the selectors, much like their predecessors, conveniently looked at the world rankings — Manika-Archana’s fourth spot — to justify their choices.
With this, the door appears firmly shut for performing youngsters Diya, Swastika, and more-experienced Ayhika and Sutirtha, who will unfortunately pay the price for not funding themselves enough to play doubles in international competitions.