Mumbai: The Indians will have an onerous task at hand when they engage themselves to take on the best of continental squads in the team events of the Reliance Asian Junior Table Tennis Championships that get underway at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Stadium here from today.
A lot will be at stake for the teams as well as the individuals in fray as only the top-four finishers in the junior sections will get automatic entry into the World Junior Championships, to be held next year at Shanghai, while it will be an Asian team that will qualify for the World Cadet Champioships to be held in Barbados next year based on the individual perforamnce.
To make it to the Asian Cadet squad, every paddler in the two sections will have to try and put his or her best foot forward. If the draws for the junior boys, junior girls, cadet boys and cadet girls were any indication, the Indian boys and girls, at best, can only hope to clear the first stage with two teams from each group making it to Stage 2, the main draw.
But even this seems very difficult at this stage at least in two sections. If, in the junior boys, the hosts have been drawn in group 2 which has runners-up Japan, Thailand and DPR Korea, in the junior girls, they have Singapore and South Korea in their group 2 for company. However, there is some relief of sorts for the cadet boys and the cadet girls as the Indian boys are set to take on Chinese Taipei and Singapore while their girls will be engaged with top-seed China and Jordan.
The hosts, in both the sections, can look forward to making the cut for the main draw. The Indians have the likes of Abhishek Yadav, the bronze medallist at the Asian Youth Games last year, Sabhay Virmani, a promising youngster along with Utkarsh Gupta and the offensive Lalrin Puia. They can be expeted to take India only some distance.
Similarly, Ayhika Mukherjee, Oishwarya Deb, Shruti Amrute, Naina and Sreeja are capable of turning the tables against the best in business on their day. A cursory look at the team composition suggests that the cadet boys and girls have a better chance of making the knockout stages than the boys and girls in the junior sections. With 11 medals on offer, without a doubt, reigning champions Chinese will be going after each one of them.