Shillong, April 21: The Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB) teams, both men and women, asserted their supremacy yet again, lifting the trophies in the 83rd Senior National and Inter-State Table Tennis Championships at the SAI Indoor Stadium here today.
For their men, it proved a silver jubilee occasion celebration – their 25th title. But their women, who missed it at Hyderabad, regained it for the 16th time. PSPB men and women defeated Maharashtra 3-0 in the finals.
The chief guest on the occasion was Commissioner & Secretary in the Directorate of Sports & Youth Affairs, Vijay Kumar, while the Director, Wanri Booth, was guest of honour.
Yet, it was not easy for the PSPB men, particularly after captain Sharath Kamal preferred to bench himself to give a chance to Manav Thakkar in the final. Maharashtra’s Deepit R Patil, Siddhesh Pandey and young Jass Modi had the firepower to stretch their opponents.
Deepit played brilliantly in the first game, taking two games off Sathiyan. The latter’s experience saved the day as he staved off the threat to put PSPB 1-0. Harmeet also dropped a game before shutting out an in-form Siddhesh Pandey. But Jash Modi got his act together to put Manav under pressure straight away. Manav lost the opener on extended points before hitting a nice rhythm. Still, when the teenager stretched him again in the fourth, it became a little dicey for Manav’s reputation.
Both Sharath and Sathiyan gave full credit to the two Maharashtra boys. “Credit to Deepit, he was brilliant and I made a few errors, too,” admitted Sathiyan, adding, “it looked like the Maharashtra team in the good old days.” Sharath, praising Deepit and Jash, said: “Both are promising and possess loads of talent.” Maharashtra A had reached the final once before.
When Archana Kamath gave a fine opening, it became apparent that PSPB women would see the return of the team trophy to their cabinet. Archna and Diya Chitale, both attacking players, never dropped their guard during their tie. But it was Archana who brought accuracy to her blocks, adding teeth to the forehand attacks. Diya, who did everything right until the semifinals, failed to comprehend a rampaging Archana who shut out the challenges her opponent posed with a 3-0 triumph.
With a 1-0 cushion, it was a formality for Manika Batra in the second rubber. Swastika Ghosh, another attacking player in the Maharashtra ranks, could not put her acts together against Manika, who was sharp on the day. With her backhand showing a remarkable improvement, Swastika failed to adjust to the pace set by Manika. In the third game, the Maharashtra girl fought well to stretch Manika. Swastika saved three match points in the bargain, but the PSPB woman eventually won the fourth to seal another 3-0 win.
The 18-year-old Anannya Basak, their third player, salvaged the pride of Maharashtra somewhat. Taking on the experienced Reeth Rishya, Anannya was cautious in the opening game. But in the second, she did well to slow down a bit and managed to catch her rival on the wrong foot. With the score level, the burden was on the PSPB woman. Upping the ante, she wrapped up quickly to win the next two games and the title.
PSPB won their title last time at the Ranchi Nationals when Manika helped the team regain it against the Reserve Bank of India in a thriller. It went too close for PSPB’s comfort, but the team won 3-2. This time, however, the young and experienced brigade ensured smooth sailing. Incidentally, it was the 16th trophy for the PSPB squad. Maharashtra A won its last team trophy during the 73rd Nationals held at Lucknow in 2022.
Men (Final): PSPB bt Maharashtra A 3-0 (G. Sathiyan bt Deepit R Patil 11-0, 10-12, 9-11, 11-5, 11-8, Harmeet Desai bt Siddhesh Pande 11-3, 11-3, 2-11, 11-7, Manav Thakkar bt Jash Modi 10-12, 11-1, 11-4, 12-10).
Women (Finals): PSPB bt Maharashtra A 3-0 (Archana Kamath bt Diya Chitale 11-2, 11-7, 11-5, Manika Batra bt Swastika Ghosh 11-4, 11-7, 15-13, Reeth Rishya bt Anannya Basak 11-6, 5-11, 11-8, 11-7)
(Meghalaya Table Tennis Association photos)