Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) is around the corner and the sure sign of that is the UTT Season 4 Player Draft which was held on Friday at the National Sports Club of India in Mumbai. Team owners, management and coaches have chosen the best team through strategy and luck. The UTT Season 4 Player Draft set the stage for a comeback season.
Puneri Paltan Table Tennis and Goa Challengers started the draft. Those who chose not to exercise their right to retain a player were offered the first pick. Seizing the opportunity, the Puneri Paltan table tennis team roped in Egypt’s Omar Assar, while Goa Challengers picked Thailand’s former Southeast Asian Games champion Suthasini Sawetabut. Asar has performed brilliantly in recent tournaments, which has seen him jump eight places to world No. 22 in the latest ITTF rankings.
“We are thrilled with the balanced team we have. Each player brings a unique set of skills and experience to the table and we are confident that this team will do well in the upcoming league. After a long wait of three years, we are finally playing in Pune. Our home stadium is Balewadi and we are very excited about it,” said Kailash Kandpal, CEO, Puneri Paltan Table Tennis.
U Mumba TT, who got the first pick in Round 2, picked USA’s Lily Zhang, while Bangalore Smashers picked Kazakhstan’s Kirill Gerasimenko. Manush Shah was onboarded by the Puneri Paltan table tennis team while Harmeet Desai was the second choice for the Goa Challengers team. With Sathian Gnanasekaran retained by Dabang Delhi TTC in their squad, they picked two-time national champion Sreeja Akula. Liu Yangzhi (Australia) and Benedict Duda (Germany) were the first two picks of Chennai Lions, who will play alongside Achanta Sharath Kamal.
“We are happy with the alliance. We had already retained Sharath Kamal and the rest of the players were also our first choice. With the right balance of international and domestic players, this could be our team to defend the title,” said co-owner Dr. Karishma Yadav and Ad Harini Yadav said. Retaining Manika Batra, Bengaluru Smashers have brought in Sunil Shetty before bringing in Poland’s Natalia Bajor, Poymanti Baisya and Ankur Bhattacharjee.
“Very happy with the selection. We got the players we had in mind. All teams are balanced. Our strength has increased with Manika. Kirill can be dangerous for other foreign players. He is promising in UTT. He is also beating good players at the global level. Apart from Manika, he will be a key player in our team,” Bengaluru Smashers owner Punit Balan said.
U Mumba TT CEO Suhail Chandhok returned happy with the selection in the draft. “I’m very happy with how the draft went. I was done when I won first place to pick first; We were lucky. Lily and [क्वाद्री] Aruna, has successfully joined us with our top picks. We are delighted to add Dia, an incredibly talented local player. Mouma joining us adds an important layer of experience and Sudhanshu is also a great player. “We had Human before the draft, so the coach and I, we’re both absolutely thrilled with the team we have,” he said.
“This format is balanced. We have a variety of players, some are new, some are experienced. We are looking forward to the title and we have got a strong team. But everything depends on what happens on the day of the match,” said Dabangg Delhi owner Roshini Kapoor. The franchise-based league is promoted by Niraj Bajaj and Vita Dani in association with the Table Tennis Federation of India. UTT Season 4 will be held at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune from July 13 to 30 and will be telecast live on Sports 18 and available on Jio Cinemas. (Player Draft held for UTT Season 4; Strong players selected by the franchise!)
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