Asian Games 2018: Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, Manika Batra to lead India's challenge, Manav Thakkar makes cut
The Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) has announced the list of players selected for the Asian Games to be held in Jakarta, Indonesia from 18th August, 2018 to 2nd September, 2018. Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, the top-ranked Indian paddler, and Manika Batra will be expected to lead the contingent in the men's and women's category respectively.
The Indian table tennis contingent, especially the women, exceeded all expectations at this year's Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast. While the women's team, inspired by Batra, went on to create history by upsetting Singapore in the final and bagging the gold medal, the men's team also brought home the gold.
In individuals as well, the performance of both the men and women were top notch with Batra leading the way with another historic gold medal. In all, the contingent returned with eight medals (3 gold, 2 silver, 3 bronze).
After the Commonwealth Games, the Indian paddlers travelled to Halmstad, Sweden to take part in the World Team Table Tennis Championships. This time, it was the men who hogged the limelight with a 13th-place finish – India's best finish in 33 years. The experienced Achanta Sharath Kamal did the star turn for India in Sweden, beating the likes of Simon Gauzy amongst others.
For the Asian Games, though, both the men's and women's team have undergone one change each. While Sanil Shetty, who was a late addition to the CWG squad, has been dropped from the men's team, Pooja Sahasrabudhe failed to make the cut in the women's team.
In Shetty's place, young sensation and junior World No. 2 Manav Thakkar comes into the team. On the other hand, Ayhika Mukherjee replaces Sahasrabudhe.
Thakkar, 18, has been showing his skills in the junior circuit for quite some time and ever since making the jump to the senior level, he has been pretty impressive. At last month's Thailand Open, Thakkar, alongside Harmeet Desai, bagged the bronze medal in men's doubles. In singles, he was the only Indian to have made it the Round of 16.
Here are the full squads:
Men: Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, Anthony Amalraj, Achanta Sharath Kamal, Manav Thakkar, Harmeet Desai
Women: Manika Batra, Mouma Das, Madhurika Patkar, Sutirtha Mukherjee, Ayhika Mukherjee
Earlier, Sathiyan had told Sportskeeda, "The Asian Games are not going to be easy because the top nations like Hong Kong, Korea, China, Chinese Taipei will be there. But having beaten some of the top players, we are confident. So, I think, we do have a chance. Anything can happen that is what sport is all about."
Indeed, expectations are high ahead of the Asian Games and the challenge will be much stiffer. But surely, one cannot rule out the Indians.
Do you think the Indian paddlers can repeat their Gold Coast success in Jakarta? Have your say in the comments section.