With ace Indian paddler Achanta Sharath Kamal eying a top-50 spot in the world singles ranking, the spotlight would be on the tall player when the 19th Asian Table Tennis Championship kicks off at the UP Badminton Academy Hall here on Monday.
But as usual, powerhouse China are expected to walk away with the honours in perhaps the biggest table tennis tournament to have come to the city of nawabs.
The seven-day championship, being organised for the second time in India, holds significance for the hosts in view of the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. It would also serve as a reality check for the hosts as to where they stand in Asia.
As many as six top teams from among the top-10 in the world come from Asia alone, so, fierce competition is very much on the cards when the first division matches, which will include India, start on Monday.
“I need to make it to the top-50 in the world, and this event is a golden opportunity,” said Kamal on the eve of the championship. “It's not going to be easy and a lot would depend on the draw,” he added. “You really need to play well here to raise your ranking.”
Top six finishers of the 2007 championship, including World and Olympic champions China, Japan, Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, Korea and Singapore would join two teams, which would qualify from the lot of 15 in the first division.
So far, India’s best in the Asian Championship has been a fifth-place finish. India's foreign coach Massimo Constantini said that the championship was an opportunity for the Indians to prepare for Commonwealth Games next year. However, it's unlikely that barring Sharath Kamal and a couple of others, India would be a match for the Asian superpowers.