New Delhi: Lightening never strikes twice, is just another myth. But ask the Indian paddlers and they will vouch for it, more than ever happily as they did today at Kuala Lumpur after winning the gold medals.
In fact, the Indians made history twice over in less than 24 hours when they beat Luxemburg 3-1 in women’s team event final of the Second Division final as did the their men’s squad, which overcame a stiff Brazil 3-2, today. Their top-podium finish followed the exceptional achievements last night of qualifying for the next meet’s Champions Division in the Perfect 2016 World Championships at Malaysian capital.
Incidentally, this was the first time ever that the women’s team kept a clean slate—eight wins in all—throughout beating against all their opponents both in the first and the second stages. However, the men after losing their only group mach against Nigeria did well to achieve the exceptional honours.
Approaching the final confidently, the Indian women spearhead Mouma Das give a winning start when she defeated Danielle Konsbruck 3-0 in a quick bust, though Danielle managed to stretch Mouma somewhat in the third game. After a couple of deuces, the Indian shut her opponent out.
Manika put behind her loss yesterday and began with a bang to lead 2-0 against Tessy Gonderinger who managed to push the Indian on the back foot for just once. However, Manika was all concentration in the fourth to win at 3-1 and provide India with a 2-0 lead. Despite the cushion, K. Shamini was unable to take advantage and lost her singles to Sarah De Nutte in straight games but Manika beat Danielle 3-0 in the reverse singles to wrap a memorable win for India.
“It was a great experience for all of us. We will remember this feat at KL for a long time to come,” said Manika Batra after completing the win. “I am happy I started well and our combined efforts and consistency throughout have paid us dividends,” added Mouma Das.
With two hard-fought wins yesterday, the team management decided to rest Achanta Sharath Kamal in the final against Brazil today. But it seemed to be a wrong decision with India trailing 1-2 despite Harmeet Desai pulling one back after Soumyajit Ghosh lost the opening rubber. Worse was to come when Anthony Amalraj, who led 2-1 in the third rubber, went down to Thiago Monterio, putting India in a precarious position.
However, Ghosh made amends with a fantastic 3-0 win over Cazuo Matsumoto to keep the team hopes alive. With onus on Harmeet, who was playing the decider, the pressure was very much on him. He lost the first game but held his nerves to restore parity. But the real turnaround in the rubber came when, trailing 6-9, Harmeet kept his cool and closed down to 9-10. Then when he deuced at 10-10 for the first time, it was a tense moment. After saving two game points and two deuces Harmeet won 15-13, much to the relief of the Indian camp. In the next, it was rather easy for the Indian as his heroics on the day proved.
Sharath, understandably, was happy about team’s performance at the championships. “It is like a dream come true for me and the team because by 2018 if I am still in the team, we will be playing in the Championship Division for the first time,” said the ace Indian.
He also recalled the win against Egypt last night which gave enough confidence today against Brazil.
“This is awesome for us as a team because I can remember when we started our campaign to play in the elite division in Guangzhou in 2008, it was Egypt that stopped us then and also in 2014.”
Men: India bt Brazil 3-2 (Soumyajit Ghosh lost to Hugo Calderano 13-15, 4-11, 7-11, Harmeet Desai bt Cazuo Matsumoto 3-11, 11-8, 11-8, 8-11,11-9, Anthony Amalraj lost to Thiago Monterio 11-8, 7-11, 11-5, 9-11, 9-11, Soumyajit Ghosh bt Cazuo Matsumoto 11-6, 14-12, 11-9, Harmeet Desai bt Hugo Calderano 4-11, 11-5, 15-13, 11-6).
Women: India bt Luxemburg 3-1 (Mouma Das bt Daniella Konsbruck 11-1, 11-4, 13-11, Manika bt Tessy Gonderinger 11-6, 11-2, 9-11, 13-11, K. Shamini lost to Sarah De Nutte 4-11, 9-11, 9-11, Manika Batra bt Daniella Konsbruck 11-5, 11-4, 11-8).