Mumbai, Mar 28 (PTI) Eight-time national men’s champion and triple Commonwealth Games gold medallist Achanta Sharath Kamal was today snapped up by Yodhas in the player draft for season 2 of the Rs 3 crore prize money Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) League commencing on June 14 in Pune.
The Yodhas targeted Kamal, a strong contender for gold in next month’s CWG in Gold Coast, Australia, in round 3 of the player draft after first picking their foreign male and female players – world No. 18 Chuang Chih-Yuan of Chinese Taipei and Sofia Polcanova of Austria, the women’s world no.
The teams had the option of retaining one Indian player before the draft pick, and defending champions Falcons and Dabang Smashers chose to hold on to Sanil Shetty and Gnanasekaran Sathiyan, India’s top-ranked player at No. 49, respectively.
In all, 50 players were in the pool for the franchises to pick their eight-member squads.
Vita Dani, promoter of the league and chairperson of 11sports, refused to divulge financial details of the player draft.
“Almost 50 per cent who took part in the inaugural season are back for the second season,” she said.
“This season will feature 25 Olympians, players of 19 different nationalities, 19 national champions and 17 No. 1 ranked players of their respective countries. It’s a compact format (of 7 matches instead of 9 in the inaugural season) which will make it more exciting,” she added.
Foreign women players were in demand, with the first seven choices out of 10 coming from that category.
Senior vice-president of Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI), Rajeev Bodas, singled out UTT for the rise in the rankings of Indian players over the past year.
“We have seen players rankings rise by 15-16 spots.
For the first time in the history of Indian table tennis, we even had a player who went on to become world No. 1 (Manav Thakkar),” he said.
The six franchises had to pick four foreign and as many Indians each from six different categories.
The highest ranked foreign players Frenchman Simon Gauzy (World No. 8) and Hong Kong s Doo Hoi Kem (World No. 11) were picked by Challengers and RP-SG Mavericks, respectively.
The youngest Olympian in the fray, Adriana Diaz of Puerto Rico, went to Dabang Smashers.
The league is to be held at the Shiv Chhatrapati complex in Balewadi, Pune, from June 14-19 before heading to Delhi’s Thyagaraj Stadium (June 20-25).
The final leg of the tournament will be played at Kolkata’s Netaji Indoor Stadium from June 26 to July 1.
Dabang Smashers: Men: Gnanasekaran Sathiyan, Yoshida Masaki (Japan), Sanish Ambekar, Cedric Nuytinck (Belgium); Women: Sakura Mori (Japan), Manika Batra, Adriana Diaz (Puerto Rico), Archana Kamath.
Falcons: Men: Sanil Shetty, Liam Pitchford (Eng), Alvaro Robles (ESP), Ronit Bhanja; Women: Bernadette Szocs (Romania), Matilda Ekholm (Sweden), Sutirtha Mukherjee, Priyadarshini Das.
Maharashtra United: Men: Kristian Karlsson (Sweden), Amalraj Anthony, Joao Monteiro (Portugal), Utkarsh Gupta; Women: Elizabeta Samara (Romania), Madhurika Patkar, Lily Zhang (USA), Selena Selvakumar.
RP-SG Mavericks: Men: Mattias Karlsson (Sweden), Harmeet Desai, Kou Lei (Ukraine), Siddhesh Pande; Women: Doo Hoi Kem (Hong Kong), Ayhika Mukherjee, Mouma Das, Sabine Winter (Germany).
Yodhas: Men: Chuang Chih-Yuan(Chinese Taipei), Achanta Sharath Kamal, Aruna Quadri (Nigeria), Ravindra Kotiyan; Women: Sofia Polcanova (Austria), Hana Matelova (Czech Republic), Pooja Sahasrabuddhe, Sreeja Akula.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.