History favours hosts in veterans TT meet

Pune, Jan 16 (IANS) As many as 900-odd players are set to compete in the 24th veterans national table tennis championships which is set to begin at the Balewadi Sports Complex here on Tuesday.

The tournament will feature 32 events — 10 in team and 22 in individual categories — over the next six days.

Maharashtra, which swept most of the medals in the last edition at Chandigarh along with the overall championships title, will want to do an encore at home. They are hosting this event for the first time.

With as many as seven age categories — 40+, 50+, 60+, 65+, 70+, 75+ and 80+ — in both men and women’s sections, the event has attracted some former national and state champions, including those who had represented India in international events.

Team medals apart, one is bound to witness players raising the bar in singles, especially the likes of Malay Thakkar from Gujarat, the winner in the men’s singles event of the 40+ category at Chandigarh and Minu Basak of West Bengal, who wore the women’s crown.

But this time they will have to go through the grid of the league phase before entering the main draw, which the second stage. In other words, only one group winner go through to the next stage and that is what will separate contenders from pretenders.

Former national champion Sunil Babras of Maharashtra, the winner in 50+ will fight it out with Pankaj Sharma of Punjab, who finished the runner-up, to retain the gold.

But it will be 60+ men’s singles with P.G. Kelker of Maharashtra and Arun Dhotre, who shared the gold and silver in that order, that will keep the participants as well as the crowd interested.

Maharashtra has several winners in Suhasini Bakre and Sunanda Rao who will have to really put up more than what they did the previous years to retain their positions.