Table tennis will kickstart the 36th National Games at the Pt. Deendayal Upadhyay Indoor Stadium here on Tuesday with the official inauguration of the Games happening in Ahmedabad on Sept. 27.

The dates had to be advanced as the World table tennis championships begin in Chengdu (China) on Sept. 30 and Indian paddlers, who are part of the National team, have to depart on Sept. 25/26.

As far as the competition goes, Gujarat men and Maharashtra women would be the favourite to win the titles.

The host which has Harmeet Desai, Manush Shah and Manav Thakkar, ranked No. 3, 4 & 5 in the country, will be expected to bag the gold. The team had a 10-day camp at the Tapti Valley International School here.

“We are excited to represent our home State and this is the first time we three are playing together in the Games. We have to play well to justify our top seeding,” said Harmeet, who was part of the Indian team that won the Commonwealth Games gold in Birmingham.

The Maharashtra women’s team appears quite strong with Reeth Rishya, Swastika Ghosh, Diya Chitale, Anannya Basak and Shruti Amrute. Bengal will definitely challenge Maharashtra as it has the veteran and five-time National champion Mouma Das, Ayhika Mukherjee, Prapti Sen, Suthirtha Mukherjee, and Takeme Sarkar. Incidentally, Mouma was a member of the Bengal team that won silver in 2015, the last time the Games was held in Kerala.

The groupings: Men: Group A: Gujarat, Delhi, Haryana, Telangana; B: Maharashtra, West Bengal, U.P., Karnataka.

Women: Group A: Maharashtra, Telangana, Gujarat & Haryana; B: West Bengal, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu & U.P.  

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