Sourav Chakraborty losing a game was the only blip in an otherwise slick show by the men and women of the Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB) on the first day of the 72nd senior national and inter-state table tennis championships here on Monday. And to think Achanta Sharath Kamal wasn’t even around for the first two rounds.
Laft-hander Chakraborty, runner-up to Sharath Kamal in the singles championship last year and winner of the North Zone, lost a game to Somnath Ghosh 8-11 but cruised through the next three, winning 11-5, 11-6, 11-6 as top seeds PSPB blanked 14th seeds Andhra Pradesh 3-0.
For the second tie against Orissa, PSPB replaced Subhajit Saha with Anthony Amalraj, who flew in from Slovakia earlier on Monday.
The 24-year-old who is the only Indian in the their league and plays for Malacky Club in the western Slovakian city of the same name, used his experience on the big points against Saswat Samal to compensate for a lack of familiarity with conditions.
Soumyadeep Roy, twice national champion and current India No. 1, too didn’t look a cinch but said there was nothing unusual about that after a comfortable 11-8, 12-10, 11-8 win against Asif Haque of Orissa.
“You use the first two days to get used to the conditions, so you are a little more careful. As the games progress, you get into the groove. Also, today, the blower at one end was getting to ball to deviate a bit,” said Roy, playing with heavy protection on his left knee more out of habit than necessity.
Unlike the men, everyone in the PSPB women’s team got a match. K Shamini, Mouma Das and Divya Deshpande shut out Chhatisgarh 3-0 before Madhurika Patkar and Pooja Sahasrabudhe joined Shamini to whip Chandigarh by an identical margin.
Rajasthan shock North Bengal
Omitted from the PSPB quintet, Zubin Kumar made it a manic Monday for North Bengal, the left-hander beating Raj Mondal and the promising Soumyajit Ghosh to help Rajasthan, the seventh seeds, start their campaign with a 3-1 win against the fifth seeds.
Referred to as ‘Gush’ by everyone connected to Indian table tennis, Ghosh had won the mixed doubles in the world junior championship with NG Wing Nam of Hong Kong last month in Bratislava, a first for India. Kumar beat him 11-2, 11-7, 11-9 after conquering Raj Mondal 11-3, 16-18, 11-5, 11-7. Rajasthan then beat Uttarkhand 3-0.
With former national champions Ganesh Kundu and Mantu Ghosh watching, North Bengal stayed in the fray for a round-of-16 berth with a 3-0 win over Delhi. In a minor upset, Delhi, seeded 32, beat 26th seeds Uttarkhand 3-0 in the first match to leave the group interestingly poised going into the final round of matches.
Easy for West Bengal
Hosts West Bengal, the sixth seeds, eased past Chandigarh and Uttar Pradesh in the men’s section. The women’s team shut out Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra B. Jayeeta Pushilal played both matches with father Jayanta coaching from the sideline.