Triple Commonwealth Games gold medallist Sharath Kamal Achanta is set for a new challenge in the second season of the ₹3 crore CEAT Ultimate Table Tennis League, with the Yodhas swooping on him in the Player Draft.
The Yodhas swooped on the eight-time national champion, a strong contender for gold in the upcoming CWG in Gold Coast, in Round 3, after first picking their foreign male and female players. They opted for Chuang Chih-Yuan (Chinese Taipei; World No. 18) and Sofia Polcanova (Austria; World No. 21) to return with a solid team.
Interestingly, the foreign women players were very much in demand, with the first seven choices out of 10, coming from that category, the UTT organisers have stated in a Press note.
Senior vice-president of Table Tennis Federation of India Rajeev Bodas credited the CEAT UTT for the rise in the rankings of Indian players over the past year. ”We have seen players’ rankings rise by 15-16 spots. For the first time in the history of Indian table tennis, we even had a player who went on to become World No. 1 (Manav Thakkar in Under-18 category; picked by the Challengers). Now, the TFFI and our players are viewed with a lot more respect on the world stage,” he said.
“The CEAT UTT is the only league of this kind in the world and the TTFI is fully behind them, providing all assistance for the conduct of the league in a professional manner,” he added.
The six franchises had to pick four foreign and four Indians each from six different categories (Indian Male, Seniors, Indian Male, Youth, Indian Female, Seniors, Indian Female, Youth, Foreign Male and Foreign Female) to ensure an exciting set of matches in each tie. The CEAT UTT commences in Pune on June 14.
The teams had the option of retaining one Indian player before the draft pick, and Falcons TTC and Dabang Smashers chose to hold on to Sanil Shetty and Gnanasekaran Sathiyan, India’s top-ranked player at No. 49. In all, 50 were in the pool for the franchises to pick their eight-member squads.
The highest ranked foreign players Frenchman Simon Gauzy (World No. 8) and Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem (World No. 11) were picked by Challengers and RP-SG Mavericks respectively. The youngest Olympian in the fray, Adriana Diaz of Puerto Rico, went to Dabang Smashers.
The promoter of CEAT UTT and chairperson of 11Sports, Mrs. Vita Dani, expressed her delight at the turnout of players for the second season. “Almost 50 per cent who took part in the inaugural season are back for the second season,” she pointed out. “This season will feature 25 Olympians, players of 19 different nationalities, 19 National Champions and 17 No. 1 ranked players of their respective countries. We are really proud that exciting talent from around the world is taking part this season,” she added.
India’s top players Manika Batra (World No. 66), Mouma Das (No. 71) and Harmeet Desai (No. 66) went to Dabang Smashers, RP-SG Mavericks, RP-SG Mavericks and Maharashtra United respectively.
The league takes place at Pune’s Balewadi Indoor Stadium from June 14-19, 2018 before heading to Delhi’s Thyagaraj stadium from June 20-25, 2018. The final leg of the tournament will be played at Kolkata’s Netaji Indoor Stadium from June 26 to July 1, 2018.
CEAT-UTT SEASON 2 SQUADS
Challengers: Men: Simon Gauzy (France), Manav Thakkar, Tiago Apolonia (Portugal), Arjun Ghosh. Women: Lee Ho Ching (Hong Kong), Georgina Pota (Hungary), Divya Deshpande, Prapti Sen.
Dabang Smashers T.T.C: Men: Gnanasekaran Sathiyan, Yoshida Masaki (Japan), Sanish Ambekar, Cedric Nuytinck (Belgium). Women: Sakura Mori (Japan), Manika Batra, Adriana Diaz (Puerto Rico), Archana Kamath.
Falcons TTC: Men: Sanil Shetty, Liam Pitchford (Eng), Alvaro Robles (ESP), Ronit Bhanja. Women: Bernadette Szocs (Romania), Matilda Ekholm (Sweden), Sutirtha Mukherjee, Priyadarshini Das.
Maharashtra United: Men: Kristian Karlsson (Sweden), Amalraj Anthony, Joao Monteiro (Portugal), Utkarsh Gupta. Women: Elizabeta Samara (Romania), Madhurika Patkar, Lily Zhang (USA), Selena Selvakumar.
RP-SG Mavericks: Men: Mattias Karlsson (Sweden), Harmeet Desai, Kou Lei (Ukraine), Siddhesh Pande. Women: Doo Hoi Kem (Hong Kong), Ayhika Mukherjee, Mouma Das, Sabine Winter (Germany).
Yodhas: Men: Chuang Chih-Yuan(Chinese Taipei), Achanta Sharath Kamal, Aruna Quadri (Nigeria), Ravindra Kotiyan. Women: Sofia Polcanova (Austria), Hana Matelova (Czech Republic), Pooja Sahasrabuddhe, Sreeja Akula