Paris 2024: Sharath, Manika to lead India in Olympic team debut

New Delhi, May 16 (PTI) Veteran Sharath Kamal and world no. 24 Manika Batra will lead the Indian men’s and women’s squads respectively at the Paris Games, where the country will make its Olympic debut in team events.

The senior selection committee of the Table Tennis Federation of India on Thursday picked a six-member squad (three in each section) as per the Olympics norms, besides naming the individuals who would compete in the singles events.

Sharath, Harmeet Desai, and Manav Thakkar will form the three-member men’s team, while Manika, Sreeja Akula and Archana Kamath will be squad members in the women’s category.

The “Alternate Player” in each section would be G. Sathiyan and Ayhika Mukherjee.

In the men’s singles, Sharath and Harmeet will compete and it will be Manika and Sreeja in the women’s event.

The decision was taken based on the latest world rankings.

It will be the fifth and final Olympic appearance for 41-year-old Sharath, who made his Games debut back in 2004.

Since the selection of the squads and the individuals were as per the already pronounced TTFI criteria, three players “got selected themselves” because of their consistent performances over time and world rankings.

However, there was a debate over the third player for the women’s squad. After Manika and Sreeja Akula walked in on the back of their higher world rankings (top 50), Archana Kamath (103) made it to the team as the third player.

The Bengaluru paddler edged out Ayhika Mukherjee (133) on several counts, including her ranking.

As for the men, Sharath picked himself as the top-ranked Indian at No. 40, while Harmeet (No. 63) and Manav (No. 62) were separated by one slot in WR.

Though both made it to the team composition, National champion Harmeet got the selectors’ nod based on his international (better win-loss proportion to his participation) and national performances.

Incidentally, Massimo Costantini’s presence as a special invitee at the meeting also added teeth as the foreign expert’s inputs proved handy in the selection of the squads.

Costantini will take charge of the Indian team for a third time as early as next week. He arrived in India earlier this week.

Alternate players Sathiyan and Ayhika will travel with the team to Paris but will not stay in the official Games Village. Their services would be needed in case of an injury.

The teams: Men: A. Sharath Kamal, Harmeet Desai, and Manav Thakkar; Alternate Player: G. Sathiyan.

Women: Manika Batra, Sreeja Akula, and Archana Kamath; Alternate Player: Ayhika Mukherjee.

Source: PTI News


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