The franchises acquired their picks during the Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) Season 4 Player Draft, which was held at the National Sports Club of India (NSCI) in Mumbai on Friday.
Ahead of the start of UTT Season 4, the owners of the team, management and coaches came together to secure their teams as strategy. The draft began with Puneri Paltan Table Tennis and Goa Challengers, who chose not to use their right to retain a player and were offered to take first picks.
Using the opportunity, Puneri Paltan swooped in to pick up Egypt’s Omar Assar as their first addition to the squad while Goa Challengers went for former Southeast Asian Games champion Suthasini Sawettabut of Thailand.
Notably, Assar has been quite impressive in the recent tournaments which saw him jumping eight spots in the latest ITTF rankings to World No. 22.
“We are thrilled with the balanced team we have. Each player brings a unique set of skills and experience to the table, and we are confident that this team will be a force to reckon with in the upcoming league. After a long wait of three years, we are finally playing in Pune, our home stadium Balewadi, and we couldn’t be more excited,” Kailash Kandpal, CEO, Puneri Paltan Table Tennis was quoted as saying in a media release.
On receiving a chance to take the first pick in Round 2, U Mumba TT went for USA’s Lily Zhang, while Bengaluru Smashers bagged Kirill Gerassimenko of Kazakhstan. Manush Shah was onboarded by Puneri Paltan Table Tennis while Harmeet Desai was Goa Challengers’ second choice for the squad.
Having ace paddler Sathiyan Gnanasekaran already in their team via retention, Dabang Delhi TTC opted for two-time national champion Sreeja Akula. Liu Yangzi (Australia) and Benedikt Duda (Germany) were first two picks for Chennai Lions to join ace paddler Achanta Sharath Kamal.
“We are happy how the team has come together. We had already retained Sharath Kamal and the rest of the players had also been our first choices. The mix of international and domestic, this could be our team to defend the title,” co-owners Dr Karishma Yadav & Adv Harini Yadav said.
After already retaining ace paddler Manika Batra, Bengaluru Smashers acquired Sanil Shetty before inducting Poland’s Natalia Bajor, Poymantee Baisya and Ankur Bhattacharjee to complete the squad.
“Very happy with the picks. We got the players we had in mind. All the teams are balanced. Besides, of course, Manika, I am looking forward to Kirill, who can be dangerous for other foreign players. He has been promising at the UTT. Even at the world level he has been beating good players. He will be the main player to watch out for from our team, besides Manika,” Bengaluru Smashers owner Punit Balan said.
U Mumba TT CEO Suhail Chandhok looked pleased and said: “I am extremely happy with how the draft went. My job was done when I picked the number one spot for the first pick; we were lucky to get that opportunity. Lily and [Quadri] Aruna, our top picks, joined us successfully. Adding Diya, an incredibly talented local player, brings us immense joy. Mouma joining us adds a crucial layer of experience, and Sudhanshu is also a great addition. We already had Manav before the draft, so both the coaches and I are absolutely thrilled with the squad we have.”
“The format itself is such that it gets balanced out. We’ve got a variety of players, some are new, some experienced. We are looking forward to winning the title and we have got a strong team. But it all depends on what happens on the day of the match,” said Dabang Delhi owner Roshini Kapoor.
Notably, UTT, a franchise-based league, is promoted by Niraj Bajaj and Vita Dani under the auspices of the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI).
The upcoming fourth season is scheduled at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune between July 13 to 30.
Bengaluru Smashers: Manika Batra (Retained), Kirill Gerassimenko (Kazakhstan), Sanil Shetty, Natalia Bajor (Poland), Poymantee Baisya, Ankur Bhattacharjee
Chennai Lions: Sharath Kamal (Retained), Yangzi Liu (Australia), Benedikt Duda (Germany), Sutirtha Mukherjee, Payas Jain, Prapti Sen
Dabang Delhi Table Tennis: Sathiyan G (Retained), Sreeja Akula, Barbora Balazova (Slovakia), Ayhika Mukherjee, Anirban Ghosh, Jon Persson (Sweden)
Goa Challengers: Suthasini Sawettabut (Thailand), Harmeet Desai, Alvaro Robles (Spain), T Reeth Rishya, Kwittwika Sinha Roy, Anthony Amalraj
Puneri Paltan TTC: Omar Assar (Egypt), Manush Shah, Archana Kamath, Snehit SFR, Anusha Kutumbale, Hana Matelova (Czech Rep.)
U Mumba TT: Manav Thakkar (Retained), Lily Zhang (US), Aruna Quadri (Nigeria), Diya Chitale, Mouma Das, Sudhanshu Grover