Mumbai, March 28 (IANS) Triple Commonwealth Games gold medallist Sharath Kamal is set for a new challenge in the second season of the Rs 3 crore Ultimate Table Tennis League, with the Yoddhas swooping on him in the player draft here on Wednesday.
The Yoddhas swooped on the eight-time national champion, a strong contender for gold in the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, in Round 3, after first picking their foreign male and female players: they opted for Chuang Chih-Yuan (Chinese Taipei; World No. 18) and Sofia Polcanova (Austria; World No. 21) to return with a good-looking team.
Interestingly, the foreign women players were very much in demand, with the first seven choices out of 10, coming from that category.
The six franchises had to pick four foreign and four Indians each from six different categories (Indian male seniors, Indian male youth, Indian female seniors, Indian female youth, foreign male and foreign female) to ensure an exciting set of matches in each tie. The UTT commences in Pune on June 14.
The teams had the option of retaining one Indian player before the draft pick, and Falcons TTC and Dabang Smashers chose to hold on to Sanil Shetty and Gnanasekaran Sathiyan, India’s top-ranked player at No. 49.
In all, 50 were in the pool for the franchises to pick their eight-member squads.
The highest ranked foreign players Frenchman Simon Gauzy (World No. 8) and Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem (World No. 11) were picked by Challengers and RP-SG Mavericks respectively.
The youngest Olympian in the fray, Adriana Diaz of Puerto Rico, went to Dabang Smashers.
India’s top players Manika Batra (World No. 66), Mouma Das (No. 71) and Harmeet Desai (No. 66) went to Dabang Smashers, RP-SG Mavericks, RP-SG Mavericks and Maharashtra United respectively.
The league will be held at Pune’s Balewadi Indoor Stadium from June 14-19 before heading to Delhi’s Thyagaraj stadium from June 20-25.
The final leg of the tournament will be played at Kolkata’s Netaji Indoor Stadium from June 26 to July 1.
Challengers: Men: Simon Gauzy (France), Manav Thakkar, Tiago Apolonia (Portugal), Arjun Ghosh. Women: Lee Ho Ching (Hong Kong), Georgina Pota (Hungary), Divya Deshpande, Prapti Sen.
Dabang Smashers T.T.C: Men: Gnanasekaran Sathiyan, Yoshida Masaki (Japan), Sanish Ambekar, Cedric Nuytinck (Belgium). Women: Sakura Mori (Japan), Manika Batra, Adriana Diaz (Puerto Rico), Archana Kamath.
Falcons TTC: Men: Sanil Shetty, Liam Pitchford (Eng), Alvaro Robles (ESP), Ronit Bhanja. Women: Bernadette Szocs (Romania), Matilda Ekholm (Sweden), Sutirtha Mukherjee, Priyadarshini Das.
Maharashtra United: Men: Kristian Karlsson (Sweden), Amalraj Anthony, Joao Monteiro (Portugal), Utkarsh Gupta. Women: Elizabeta Samara (Romania), Madhurika Patkar, Lily Zhang (US), Selena Selvakumar.
RP-SG Mavericks: Men: Mattias Karlsson (Sweden), Harmeet Desai, Kou Lei (Ukraine), Siddhesh Pande. Women: Doo Hoi Kem (Hong Kong), Ayhika Mukherjee, Mouma Das, Sabine Winter (Germany).
Yoddhas: Men: Chuang Chih-Yuan(Chinese Taipei), Achanta Sharath Kamal, Aruna Quadri (Nigeria), Ravindra Kotiyan. Women: Sofia Polcanova (Austria), Hana Matelova (Czech Republic), Pooja Sahasrabuddhe, Sreeja Akula