Shillong, Apr 14: Hundreds of India’s best table tennis players will make Shillong their temporary home as the 83rd Senior National Table Tennis Championship is all set to begin on Monday here.

The mega event will take place at the Sports Authority of India’s Indoor Training Centre on the North-Eastern Hill University campus, with paddlers like Manika Batra, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, Sutirtha Mukherjee and Achanta Sharath Kamal expected to participate. Meghalaya, meanwhile, will field a team of 14, including North East Olympics 2018 gold medallist Tanushree Das Gupta.

The Meghalaya Table Tennis Association briefed the local press today on the preparations for the championships.

MTTA Vice-President and Chairman of the competition’s Organising Committee, Bruce P Marak, informed that this is one of the biggest sporting events that Meghalaya has ever held.

There are expected to be some 450 paddlers plus another 200 coaches, Table Tennis Federation of India officials and others coming to the state capital for the event. The national TT team will be selected based on the players’ performances here.

“Originally, the championships were going to be held in January but, due to the Covid-19 pandemic’s third wave, they were pushed to April,” Marak said. “Accommodation, security and the venue are all being readied and the state government has been very supportive to us in carrying out this humongous task.”

The state government has been keen to bring this tournament to Shillong as part of Meghalaya’s 50th anniversary of statehood celebrations. Following the championship, four top national players will also travel to Tura for an exhibition event at the suggestion of Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, who is also the Chief Patron of the event.

Shillong has previously hosted major table tennis events, such as the South Asian Games in 2016 and South Asian Federation Junior Table Tennis Championship in 2012. Both events took place at the JN Indoor Stadium, Polo.

Players like Batra and Sathiyan are making their return to Shillong after having taken part in SAG 2016.

On the city’s preparedness for the championship, Organising Secretary and MTTA General Secretary Chiranjib Choudhury said that the Technical Director of the TTFI has been in Shillong for some time now and he is confident that the event will go off successfully.

Marak added that he is sure the players will go home happy and said that spectators are also welcome at the venue, though space will be restricted because of the sheer number of teams, players and support staff.

With regards to Meghalaya, there are seven men and seven women in the squad. The men are Suranjit Dey, Anubhav Dutta, T Yogesh Singh, Rituraj Shabong, Z Somiyar, Sumesh Gareri and Prithvi Dey, while the women’s contingent comprises Tanushree Das Gupta, Camelia Diengdoh, Anwesha Choudhury, Wanpyntngen Lyngdoh, Diva Tang, Chuana R Marak and Badaihun Diengdoh.

The state paddlers have been practising since January. They were called up for selection trials based on their 2020 ranking.

“I feel we will do reasonably well,” Choudhury said. “We had high expectations in January but then the players’ flow was stopped because of Covid. They have been putting in their best efforts and the MTTA is hopeful.”

(Meghalaya Table Tennis Association photo. MTTA General Secretary and the organising committee’s Organising Secretary Chiranjib Choudhury (back row second right) and MTTA Vice-President and organising committee’s Chairman Bruce P Marak (back row third right) with members of the press)

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