Sharath, Manika to lead India squad at Asian Games

NEW DELHI, July 7: Achanta Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra will lead India’s 10-member table tennis squad at the Hangzhou Asian Games in September-October with an aim to match the historic high of the previous edition.

The Indian contingent had ended a 60-year wait for a table tennis medal at the Asian Games in Jakarta five years ago. The squad exceeded all expectations by winning bronze in men’s team and mixed doubles.

The senior selection committee of the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) named a 10-member squad, comprising five men and five women, for the upcoming 26th Asian Championships in Pyeongchang, Korea as well as the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. The Asian Championships in Korea are scheduled between September 3 and 10, while the Asian Games are between September 23 and October 2.

Sharath, who in all likelihood will feature in his last continental games, will spearhead the men’s pack with G Sathiyan, Harmeet Desai, Manav Thakkar and Manush Shah. Manika, on the other hand, will guide a young women’s team comprising Sreeja Akula, Sutirtha Mukherjee, Ayhika Mukherjee and Diya Chitale.

With restrictions on two singles entries per gender at the Asian Games, the selectors have given their nod to Sharath, Sathiyan, Manika and Sreeja for the men’s and women’s singles, respectively. The selectors have justified their decision and faith based on the chosen individuals’ reputation, experience and world ranking points.

However, in the Asian Championships, there are no such limitations, and all the men and women players are eligible to play in the singles events.

Sharath will play only in the men’s doubles in Hangzhou and Manika in the mixed doubles, both combining with Sathiyan. “Sharath and Manika have opted out of other doubles events giving a free hand to the selectors on the premise that they would not want to disturb the pairs already performing well,” said the TTFI in a statement. The left-right combination of Manush Shah and Manav Thakkar will be the second men’s doubles squad.

In the women’s doubles, the selectors have gone with the pair of Ayhika and Sutirtha following its fantastic title win in Tunis and Sreeja and Diya will be the second duo. Harmeet will pair up with Sreeja in the second mixed doubles. Sharath and Manika had paired up in Indonesia five years ago to secure a memorable bronze.

The squads:

Men: A. Sharath Kamal, G. Sathiyan, Harmeet Desai, Manav Thakkar and Manush Shah. Reserve: 1. SFR Snehit, 2. Sanil Shetty. Women: Manika Batra, Sreeja Akula, Sutirtha Mukherjee, Ayhika Mukherjee and Diya Chitale.

Reserve: 1. Archana Kamath, 2. Reeth Rishya.

Men’s Doubles: A. Sharath Kamal/G. Sathiyan and Manav Thakkar/Manush Shah.

Women’s Doubles: Sutirtha Mukherjee/Ayhika Mukherjee and Sreeja Akula/Diya Chitale.

Mixed Doubles: Manika Batra/G. Sathiyan and Sreeja Akula/Harmeet Desai. (PTI)