Cuttack: With less than 48 hours to go for the opening of the 21st Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium here, the number of participating teams has come down to 12 apiece as their men and women will vie for the coveted Host Association’s Cup and India Cup, respectively.
The final list of nations that are competing here include Australia, Bangladesh, Cyprus, England, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Scotland, South Africa, Singapore and Wales.
The teams that have pulled out at the last minute, just a day before the scheduled draw, include Ghana, Guyana and Pakistan—the last named because of visa issues and the first two were not able to get their government clearance.
This may have taken the sheen off the championships which began with 17 entries—Uganda and Jersey had withdrawn citing the same reason as Ghana and Guyana—but of dozen countries that are participating here, one can expect some fireworks from teams like England, Nigeria, Singapore and Australia, to some extent. Yet, the advantage rests with hosts India, who are the frontrunners to claim the men team championships.
Meanwhile, Wales and South Africa were the first two teams to arrive at Bhubaneswar while Australia, England and Malaysia are expected to reach in the wee hours of tomorrow followed by teams from other countries.
The Indian team members, who returned from Geelong after their participation in the ITTF World Tour Platinum Australian Open on Saturday, will be arriving tomorrow morning as some players had to attend a felicitation function organized by their employers at New Delhi.
Referee N. Ganeshan was fine-tuning the practice schedule for the teams to hit the ground running from tomorrow when the remaining teams joined those who had already arrived. According to him, eight to 12 tables will be in place in a nearby hall for the teams to go full throttle during practice sessions, both in the morning and in the evening.
Ganeshan also said that the team draw will be conducted tomorrow at 3 p.m. in the presence of team officials at the venue.
For the championships, Ganeshan will have the assistance of deputy referee Lee Yock Chin from Malaysia along with a battery Blue Badge and experienced international umpires from abroad and India. The ITTF will also be sending an evaluator to assess the performance evaluate the Blue Badge umpires during the championships.