Olympics 2024: Sharath, Manika to lead TT squads in Paris

Achanta Sharath Kamal, Harmeet Desai, and Manav Thakkar will form the three-member men's team, while Manika Batra, Sreeja Akula and Archana Kamath will be squad members in the women's category.
Indian table tennis legend and CWG medallist A Sharath Kamal
Indian table tennis legend and CWG medallist A Sharath KamalFILE Photo | PTI

CHENNAI: Multiple CWG medallist A Sharath Kamal and world No. 24 Manika Batra will spearhead the team events of Indian men and women challenges, respectively, at the Paris Olympics in what will be the first-ever participation of the squads at the Games.

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

Achanta Sharath Kamal, Harmeet Desai, and Manav Thakkar will form the three-member men's team, while Manika Batra, 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, Kamal and Desai will compete, while Batra and Akula will compete in the women's event.

Since the selection of the squads and the individuals was 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 Batra and Akula walked in on the back of their higher world rankings (top 50), Kamath made it to the team as the third player.

The Bengaluru paddler edged Ayhika Mukherjee out as the former scored over the latter on several counts, including her world ranking (No.103), 33 places ahead of Mukherjee.

As for the men, Sharath picked himself as the top-ranked Indian at No. 40, while Desai (No. 63) and Thakkar (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.

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. 

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