Coimbatore, July 31 (IANS) All paddlers have landed in top gear for the 48th All India Inter-Institutional Championships starting at the Bharatiar University Indoor Hall here on Tuesday.
The A. Sharath Kamal-led Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB) team is primed for the occasion in the company of A. Amalraj, G. Sathiyan, Sanil Shetty along with the young potent weapon they have added to their arsenal Manav Thakka.
They should, in all probability, help PSPB go for yet another shot at the title. Surprisingly, however, Harmeet Desai misses the team bus.
If they foresee a worthy opponent who can give a run for their money, it is the Airports Authority of India (AAI). The hosts, with some young guns in Sushmit Sriram, Arjun Ghosh, Manush Shah, Ronit Bhanja and Abhiseh Yadav, can hope to turn the tables against PSPB.
The Railways, once a real contender, can at best be described as the third in line to upset the PSPB applecart.
But the Railways will expect the old warhorse Anirban Nandi and youngsters Ravindra Kotiyan, Anirban Ghosh to carry the major load on their shoulders with Pankaj Vishwakarma and E. Prabhakaran to lend them a supporting hand.
But for these two teams, there is no real or perceived threat for PSPB from any other teams. Similarly, the entire Team India squad that brought glory to the country at Gold Coast with the first ever win to grab women team gold — “Manika Batra, Mouma Das, Sutirtha Mukherjee, Pooja Sahasrabudhe and Madhurika Patkara — is the one that is taking care of PSPB’s title ambitions here.
But the truth is that there is very little challenge for them from the rest of 13 other squads, including hosts AAI and Reserve Bank of India that has some exciting players.
However, one can witness some excellent contests brewing in the Youth Boys (five teams) and Youth Girls (four teams) categories.
Though both events will be played on a round-robin league basis, the gold medal contest could be between PSPB Boys, with Manav, Jeet Chandra, Anukram Jain and Siddesh Pandey well entrenched and AAI, whose fluctuating fortunes hinges on how well the foursome of Manush Shah, Ronit Bhanja, SFR Snehit and Akaash Nath cope with the pressure.
As for Youth Girls team crown, yet again it’s going to be a fight between PSPB and AAI with RSPB finishing third and probably in that order.
Archana Kamath, who qualified for the Buenos Aires Youth Olympics along with Manav, will have the able company of Yashini Sivashankar, Srushti Haleangadi and Prapti Sen to buttress their cause. On the other hand, AAI will rely on Surbhi Patwari, Moumita Dutta, Selenadeepthi Selvakumar and Kaushani Nath.
Understandably, PSPB has been given the top billings in all team events — Men, Women Youth Boys and Youth Girls. PSPB are the holders of titles in the first three but RBI, the last year’s winners in Youth Girls, having failed to pit a team, the position has gone to PSPB in the section, too.
In men and women events, teams have been divided into group to play the first stage on league basis with two teams from each group making the main draw, the knockout stage to decide the winners. But the Youth Boys and Girls will be of single group league, the winners emerging with maximum triumphs.
The team finals are slated for Friday and they will be followed by one round of group qualification matches in singles events. Subsequently, the doubles get underway — two teams in men and women and four in mixed allowed — may not be as glamourous but they do offer reasonable prize money in each category to motivate all top pairs to compete.