New Delhi, April 16: A lot will depend on how well the the six-member Indian table tennis squad, led by the experienced Achanta Sharath Kamal, uses the opportunity at the Asian Olympic qualification tournament at Hong Kong to book its ticket for the London Olympics later this year.
With seven slots in each of the men and women’s sections available at the qualification tournament, the April 19-22 event provides the best opening for the likes of Sharath Kamal, A.Amalraj, Soumyajit Ghosh in the men’s section and Poulomi Ghatak, K. Shamini and Ankita Das in the women’s category.
The six-member team, along with Polish coach Leszek Kucharski and national coach Bhawani Mukjerjee, is all set to embark on the trip to Hong Kong later tonight. The Indian paddlers will have to really give it a hard try at Hong Kong, especially because they will be fighting to grab a slot each in the two sections from among 23 men and 21 women participants from 14 countries.
Sharath Kamal is seeded sixth at the Hong Kong qualifiers, while Amalraj is seeded ninth. As for the women, Ankita Das is seeded 12th, followed by K. Shamini at 13. India can expect a maximum of two spots, one each in both the sections.
According to Mukherjee, the Indians are upbeat about the qualifiers, having prepared well for the Hong Kong tourney, both before and during the Dortmund World Championships and subsequently during the 10-day camp at Patiala since April 5.
“I am confident of the boys and girls to do the job. We should earn at least one slot here, if not two. If we manage only one in either section, we will have a go at the Doha, which is the last qualification event, in the other category,” said Mukherjee.
Among the contenders for the London berths in men’s category include world No.1 Ma Long and world No. 5 Guo Yue in the women’s section. That puts the tasks of our paddlers even more difficult as the two Chinese should earn their berths hands down, leaving the remaining 12 berths (six in each section) to the rest.
But Mukherjee sounded optimistic about two Indian paddlers booking the London tickets at Hong Kong itself.
“You can see from the seedings of our players, all based on their current world rankings. Our’s is an experienced and exuberant lot and am confident they will do the job diligently,” he added.