Cuttack: India may have got the toughest group opponents from among the teams participating in the 21st Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships, beginning at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium here from tomorrow, but team captain and ace paddler A. Sharath Kamal is more than confident that India will retain the Host Association’s Cup on Friday.
Sharath was not way off the mark when he talked about the draw as India are clubbed with Singapore and Scotland in group B, while England, the top-ranked team here and placed in group A, have Sri Lanka and Cyprus for company.
With the format allowing two teams from each group to qualify for the second stage, Sharath and company are not losing any sleep. In fact, he said India would be aiming to sweep the gold medals.
“Indeed, we are in the toughest group but since England, Nigeria and Singapore have not fielded their best players, Indian men should win the team and open events,” said the winner of 10 medals, including the 2004 singles and team championship gold medals.
Sharath also said that said the way G. Sathiyan, ranked No. 24 in the world, has been playing, of late, India would always fancy their chance against even the toughest. “He is in the form of his life. Besides, two seasoned campaigners in Liam Pitchford and Paul Drinkhall (England) and Aruna Quadri and Segun Toriola (Nigeria) are not here. Singapore, too, has fielded a young side while other teams are not that strong. It makes our job easier,” he added.
In comparison, the women team draw looks far easier than one would have expected. Again, on the basis of team ranking, Singapore is the top-seeded squad but India, at No. 2, form a part of group B with South Africa and Sri Lanka, while group A has Singapore, Wales and Scotland. The other groups have lesser teams in terms of ranking. The six-day event will be telecast live by Doordarshan.
Group A: England, Sri Lanka, Cyprus
Group B: India, Singapore, Scotland
Group C: Nigeria, Malaysia, Bangladesh
Group D: Australia, South Africa, Wales
Group A: Singapore, Wales, Scotland
Group B: India, South Africa, Sri Lanka
Group C: Australia, Malaysia, Cyprus
Group D: Nigeria, England, Bangladesh