Post-Covid, Masters ready to pick up the threads in Srinagar

Srinagar: After a two-year hiatus, the masters of the game are raring to go as the 28th Masters National Table Tennis Championships get underway at the beautiful Sher-e-Kashmir Indoor Stadium here.

The Championships will witness a throng of 1,500 players from 28 states and institutions in 38 events—40+ to 80+ age categories in the men’s section and from 50+ to 60+ in the women’s section—vying with one another to claim the team titles as well as the singles’ crowns.

The championships, held under the aegis of the Table Tennis Federation of India, through the Committee of Administrators, are conducted with the blessings of the Indian Veterans Table Tennis Committee and supported by the J and K Sports Council, and coming to the Valley for the second time.
The popularity of master’s events had gained momentum in the country with regular tournaments pre-Covid days, including in the last edition in Sonipat held in 2019. Post-Covid, there was a lull but it has picked again with the current edition bearing testimony to that.
As in the past, Maharashtra has sent the largest contingent in both sections with a total of 95 players for team events.
However, both West Bengal and Tamil Nadu failing to match their past number this time around has come as a huge surprise.
Karnataka, with 46 players that include 16 women, has come with the second largest contingent for the team championships.
Bengal has entered 38 players, including five women, but Delhi has outdone them with 40 entries—12 of them being women players.
By and large, the sheer number of Maharashtra has been reflected in their team titles and overall medal hauls in previous editions.
The Srinagar episode will not be any different. But they will be wary of some of the veterans from Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and determined not to let any of them spoil their party.
Some hopefuls, particularly in the 80+category, might feel the pinch after the organizers and the competition department of TTFI decided to combine them with the 75+ men owing to fewer entries in 80+.
But undeterred, the entrants have been game for the change and are ready to challenge themselves with their usual enthusiasm. What is of equal significance is the participation of 140 women, some of them accompanied by their children.
The organizers, as is the norm, will provide them with free hospitality of board and lodging during the championships.
An equally enthusiastic organising committee, under the chairmanship of Sarmad Hafeez and vice-chairperson Ms Nuzhat Gul, is all set to see the conduct of the Championships as smooth as it can get. Ajay Sharma, a member of the Indian Veterans Committee, will be the Organising Secretary of the events.
As usual, the technical team headed by N. Ganeshan, referees A.S. Kler and Anil Dubey, set the ball rolling with the team events, beginning at 11.15 a.m. tomorrow.
They will have the assistance of 50 other officials, including deputy referees T.G. Upadhya, Mangesh Mopkar with Blue Badge, and international and national umpires.
The J and K LG Manoj Sinha will formally inaugurate the championships at 10 AM.

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