As widely anticipated, Petroleum went through the motions of winning the team title in the National table tennis championship for a record-extending 27th time and Reserve Bank of India women came up with their first successful title defence.
Petroleum, without the services of ace Sharath Kamal, chose to rest spearhead Harmeet Desai in the final. Defending singles champion G. Sathiyan, who arrived here on Monday evening, was fielded for the third singles while the struggling duo of A. Amalraj and Manav Thakkar were to play two singles each, if needed.
Like in Jammu, in the previous edition, RBI paraded its strongest trio of defending singles winner Sreeja Akula, Ayhika Mukherjee and a not-so-fully-fit Diya Chitale against Tamil Nadu. If the TN girls Yashini Sivashankar, Kavyashree Baskar and Selenadeepthi Selvakumar were hoping to avenge the 2-3 defeat suffered at Jammu, RBI served a rude shock.
The identical 3-0 margins for the champions were achieved even though the members of the victorious teams were not obliged to play their best. This highlighted the gulf that exists between some institutional teams and those from states.
A rusty Amalraj, a former National champion, dropped the opening game to much younger Payas Jain but bounced back to force a match-point in the fourth game. The Delhi youngster won four points on the trot to force the decider, where Amalraj just about managed to come out stronger.
Manav, having lost twice on the way to this final, played better against a fighting Sudhanshu Grover to win in four games. Sathiyan took time to get the feel of the conditions against rising talent Shubh Goel and swiftly closed out the final with an 11-2 scoreline in the third game.
In the women’s team final, Arjuna Award-elect Ayhika saved two match-points – one each in the third and fifth games – against an inconsistent Yashini to come out stronger. Sreeja expectedly tamed Kavyashree to double RBI’s lead.
Now it was left to an injured Diya to put the finishing touches against Selena. In spite of looking far from normal in her movements, Diya outplayed Selena in the second and third games to move ahead. Selena struck right back to force the decider.
Here, Selena had match-points at 10-9, 12-11 and 13-12 and faced one at 10-11. But all credit to Diya for playing the big points better and eventually shutting out the contest by racing away with the last three points.
Source: The Hindu