CHENNAI: The draft for the inaugural edition of Ultimate Table Tennis took place at the National Sports Club of India in Mumbai on Friday, where 24 foreign paddlers and the top 24 Indians were picked up by six different franchises.
The top-ranked men’s paddler in the tournament, Wong Chun Ting of Hong Kong (World No 7) was picked up by Maharashtra United while among women, World No 9 Han Ying of Germany is set to figure for Challengers. Among foreigners, 21 are Olympians.
Top-ranked Indian, A Sharath Kamal (World No 44), was grabbed by RP-SG Mavericks while national champion Madhurika Patkar (World No 184) went to Dabang Smashers.
While the stakeholders of UTT did not divulge the amount of money involved, the Indian players signed their contracts with 11Even Sports, the promoters of the league, back in March and April. The money being given to the paddlers is according to their world ranking and is quite substantial for a table tennis player in India. Incidentally, UTT will have club-based franchises rather than city-based franchises.
“I was following the draft from Dusseldorf. I have a Bundesliga match here on Saturday and a few of my fellow competitors are also coming to play. They kept on asking me questions,” Sharath told Express. He believes the money involved will help young Indian paddlers to participate in more Pro Tour events as well as going on more exposure trips, ultimately helping them improve their world ranking.
Indian paddlers feel the league can help table tennis capture the attention of the youth, much like what ISL and PKL did for football and Kabaddi. “Table tennis is a fast-paced game and most of the people are unaware of the points system associated with the sport. Proper coverage will ensure that people get attracted," Tamil Nadu’s G Sathiyan said.
“Also, playing with and against quality foreign paddlers will help improve our play. I believe the league is the next step for Table Tennis in the country after the India Open,” he added.
The inaugural UTT season will be played from July 13 to July 30 in Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai. The first two legs will be held in Chennai and Delhi before the league shifts base to Mumbai for the finals. Each franchise will comprise of a combination of overseas and Indian players — four men and four women, along with one Indian and one foreign coach each.