MUMBAI: While the Soumyajit Ghosh case has clouded Indian table tennis in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games, there was some glittering relief for the sport on Wednesday, as Ultimate Table Tennis announced its return with the player draft. The second season of the league begins in June and the franchises picked their squads at the draft featuring 52 players. Shaze Challengers snapped up Frenchman Simon Gauzy, the highest-ranked player in the league at World No 8, while Oilmax-Stag Yodhas picked eight-time national champion Achanta Sharath Kamal. The Dabang Smashers signed on India’s top-ranked women’s player Manika Batra (World No 66) after they had already retained the country’s highest-ranked men’s player, G Sathiyan (World No 49).
Ahead of Wednesday’s player draft, Ghosh had been replaced by 25-year-old Raj Mondal, who went unsold. Of the other notable Indian players, Mouma Das signed for RP-SG Mavericks while the defending champions Falcons TTC retained Sanil Shetty. Maharashtra United drafted Anthony Amalraj and promising youngster Selena Selvakumar. Each of the franchises had to pick eight players, with the option of retaining one.
The UTT, with a total prize purse of Rs 3 crore, will also venture into new cities in its second season. While Mumbai and Chennai played hosts in 2017, the league will be played in Pune (June 14-19), Delhi (June 20-25) and Kolkata (June 26-July 1).
Teams (Indians unless mentioned):
Shaze Challengers: Men: Simon Gauzy (France), Manav Thakkar, Tiago Apolonia (Portugal), Arjun Ghosh. Women: Lee Ho Ching (Hong Kong), Georgina Pota (Hungary), Divya Deshpande, Prapti Sen.
Dabang Smashers TTC: Men: G Sathiyan, Yoshida Masaki (Japan), Sanish Ambekar, Cedric Nuytinck (Belgium). Women: Sakura Mori (Japan), Manika Batra, Adriana Diaz (Puerto Rico), Archana Kamath.
Falcons TTC: 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), Anthony Amalraj, 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).
Oilmax-Stag 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.
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