Teenager Soumyajit Ghosh helped India edge out England 3-2 for a place in the men’s team final at the Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships here yesterday. Singapore beat Scotland in the other semi-final, setting up a repeat title clash after Glasgow 2009. The tournament was not held in 2011.
The Indian women’s team, however, suffered a heartbreaking 2-3 loss against England to settle for a bronze medal. Coach Bhawani Mukherjee said he could not pick the best team for the crucial match after senior player and reigning national champion Shamini Kumaresan made herself unavailable citing “low confidence”.
The men too looked to be swept away by the English outfit until Ghosh produced one of his best performances to win both his matches. The start of the semi-final spelt huge trouble for the hosts with World No 69 Sharath Kamal falling flat against 502 ranked Samuel Walker. India’s best player looked sluggish for major part of the contest and his little known opponent took advantage of that for a 12-10, 4-11, 12-10, 11-9 win.
Ghosh was then up against the experienced Andrew Baggaley. The Siliguri-born paddler, who became the youngest national earlier in the year, played flawlessly under pressure to put India on level terms with a 11-7, 11-8, 11-4 win.
However, in the third tie Harmeet Desai, chosen ahead of higher-ranked Anthony Amalraj, lost 5-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-5, 7-11. With India trailing 1-2, Sharath needed to step up his game in the first reverse singles. And he did just that by defeating a familiar opponent in Baggaley 11-9, 11-7, 11-7.
It was all down to Ghosh now to take India to their second successive final at the Championships. The situation was tense but the World No 189 did not seem affected by it and overcame Sharath’s conqueror, Walker, 11-7, 12-10, 11-6.