Mumbai : India’s Cadet Boys and Junior Girls registered exciting wins to qualify for the quarter-finals, in the 20th Reliance Asian Junior Table Tennis Championship at the NSCI’s Sardar Vallabhai Patel Indoor Stadium, Mumbai on Friday.
The India teams found a common whipping horse in Singapore to lift the morale of the hosts after the Junior Boys lost their group 2 matches 0-3 to both Japan and DPR Korea.
The Junior Boys, who have failed to make it to the quarterfinals, would be playing the 9-14 positional matches. But the Cadet Girls can make the quarter-final cut provided they beat Jordan in round 3.
India could have taken the top perch in Cadet Boys after Manav Thakkar’s heroics against Chinese Taipei. Thakkar won both his reverse singles and combined well with doubles partner Akaash Nath to give Taipei a scare. But earlier, Thakkar played brilliantly against Chen Chun-Hsiang which set the ball rolling.
14-year-old Thakkar from Surat should have won the match after leading 2-0 and in the decider 10-8. But a couple of net errors at the crucial match points reversed the fortunes in favour of the Taipei lad.
Undaunted, Thakkar combined well with Nath to win the doubles and his reverse singles. This was probably the trigger for the team to do well against Singapore where both Thakkar and Nath wore down their rivals to win 3-2 and go through.
After trailing 1-2, Singapore forced the decider through Ethan Shao Feng Poh who beat Thakkar 3-1 after dropping the opening game. But Nath changed the script with a spectacular recovery after trailing 0-2, winning the crucial fourth at 12-10 over extra points from 7-10 down, and snatching the decider with a breathtaking effort.
While Thakkar and Nath were India’s cadet boys star, Ayhika Mukherjee was the junior girls queen after winning both her singles against Singapore’s Hui Li Tay 11-6, 11-6, 7-11, 11-8 and Herng Hwee Yee 8-11, 11-8, 9-11, 11-5, 11-5. The Indian, down 0-2, struck form in time to surprise her rival in the third game. From there, it was the Indian all the way as Yee lost the next two games tamely.
With China and South Korea in Junior Boys section and China and Japan in Junior Girls category sitting pretty with direct entry into the quarterfinals to be played on Saturday, the onus was on the group toppers to maintain their pre-eminence and without a hiccup they took their appointed places after beating their rivals.
In the Cadet Boys’ section, Group 4 saw some extraordinary results with No. 4 team Bahrain scoring over both Kazakhstan and Sri Lanka. In terms of reputation, Bahrain was a relatively weak team considering the potential of Kazakhstan. But the former surprised both the Kazakhs as well as the Sri Lankans to take the second place behind Japan.
Bahrain beat Kazakhstan and Sri Lanka by a similar 3-0 margin while losing by the same score to Japan.