Mumbai, June 13: India's top players Achanta Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra were the top choices in the Rs 2 crore Ultimate Table Tennis 2019, with Chennai Lions and RP-SG Mavericks Kolkata grabbing them in the Player Draft here on Thursday (June 13).
Ace paddler Sharath Kamal will play for the Chennai Lions in this edition, which will be held in New Delhi from July 25 to August 11. Kamal, a nine-time national champion, was picked by the Chennai-based franchise, a new entrant in the league. In a video message, Kamal said that he will try and give his best in the tournament.
The country's highest-ranked player Gnansekaran Sathiyan (World No. 24) was retained by Dabang Delhi T.T.C., underlining the preeminent position that India's players command in this prestigious league.
The Dabang Delhi TTC decided to retain G. Sathiyan and hence the franchise did not get a chance to pick a player in the first round of the draft. The 25-year-old Sathiyan, who became the first Indian player to break into the top-25, also in a video message expressed happiness over the move.
Goa Challengers got the opportunity to choose the first player from a pool of 40 and Mr Shrinivas Dempo had no hesitation in swooping on Cheng I-Ching of Chinese Taipei, the highest-ranked player in fray at World No. 8.
U Mumba too made the most of their luck to opt for Doo Hoi Kem of Hong Kong (World No. 11). Manika Batra was the first Indian star to be bagged in the open pick, with the Mavericks Kolkata grabbing her in Round 1 itself, hoping to ride on her inscrutable technique.
"It is great to see Indian players being preferred even when the teams had the option of going for foreign stars," Ms Vita Dani, co-promoter of the UTT, said. "This shows that our stars are steadily rising in the world pecking order as their improved rankings confirm," she added.
The third edition of the UTT has got a huge boost with the coming on board of a bunch of top corporates.
"With 11 Olympians and 25 national champions from 12 different countries in the league, this becomes one of the most exciting line-up of talent in TT," Mr Niraj Bajaj, co-promoter of UTT, said.
Among other notable picks was young sensation Manush Shah, who will pay for RP-SG Mavericks Kolkata. Vadodara-born Shah is currently ranked 11th in Under-18 boys' category. Each of the franchise had to pick six players.
Among the notable foreign players was Hong Kong player Doo Hoi Kem, who was picked up by U Mumba TT. German player Petrissa Solja will play for Chennai Lions along with Portuguese player Tiago Apolonia.
Mr Shrinivas Dempo (Dempo Group), Mr Suresh Kotak (InsureKot Sports), Mr Ronnie Screwvala (U Sports) and Mr Sameer Bharat Ram join Ms Radha Kapoor Khanna (DO IT Sports), Mr Sanjiv Goenka (RP-SG Group) to make it a power-packed set of owners.
Three new teams have come on board in the form of Puneri Paltan, U Mumba and Chennai Lions to make it a true city-based league, along with Goa Challengers in their new avatar, Dabang Delhi and Mavericks Kolkata.
The teams had to pick one player each in six categories, including Foreign Male, Foreign Female, Indian Male Senior, Indian Female Senior, Indian Male Youth and Indian Female Youth.
India's players were in demand in Round 2 too, with Harmeet Desai (Puneri), Manav Thakkar (U Mumba) and Archana Kamath (Goa Challengers) getting ticked off.
Dabang Delhi T.T.C.: Sathiyan G. (India), Bernadette Szocs (Romania), Jon Persson (Sweden), Parth Virmani (India), Naina (India), Krittwika Sinha Roy (India)
Puneri Paltan Table Tennis: Chuang Chih-Yuan (Chinese Taipei), Harmeet Desai (India), Ayhika Mukherjee (India), Selena Selvakumar (India), Ronit Bhanja (India), Sabine Winter (Germany)
Chennai Lions: Sharath Kamal (India), Petrissa Solja (Germany), Tiago Apolonia (Portugal), Madhurika Patkar (India), Yashini Sivasankar (India), Anirban Ghosh (India)
RP-SG Mavericks Kolkata: Manika Batra (India), Benedikt Duda (Germany), Matilda Ekholm (Sweden), Manush Shah (India), Prapti Sen (India), Sanil Shetty (India)
U Mumba TT: Doo Hoi Kem (Hong Kong), Manav Thakkar (India), Sutirtha Mukherjee (India), Kirill Gerassimenko (Kazakhstan), Jeet Chandra (India), Moumita Dutta (India)
Goa Challengers: Cheng I-Ching (Chinese Taipei), Archana Kamath (India), Amalraj Anthony (India), Siddhesh Pande (India), Shruti Amrute (India), Alvaro Robles (Spain).
Source: Media Release