Dabang Smashers will aim to begin their campaign on a promising note when they take on Shaze Challengers in the second match of the Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) on Friday here at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
The match will witness local stars Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Anthony Amalraj. The duo use shake-hand grip and have an attacking style of play.
Sathiyan, at 24, has tasted success in the World Tour Belgium Open last year. At the age of 31, Anthony's experience will prove vital for the team. The right-hander was part of the Doubles team that led the country to a Silver medal in the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Madhurika Patkar and Mousumi Paul are the two female Indian recruits in the Dabang Smashers camp. Madhurika has been one of the stalwarts of table tennis in the country and has to her credit a Silver medal at 2010 Commonwealth Games. She also won the National Championships this year. Mousumi Paul has also represented India with distinction having bagged the Bronze medal in the Commonwealth Championships' team event.
Their foreign slots will be led by women's World No. 19 Kim Song I who is an Olympic Bronze medallist along with 33-year-old Bilenko Tetyana who has won Bronze in the 2015 European games.
Ukraine's Kou Lei and Portuguese Marcos Freitas completes the men's set. Lei's brightest performance so far came in the 2015 European Games where he claimed the Bronze medal while Freitas brings with him bags of experience having participated in three Olympics - Beijing, London, Rio.
"With players bringing quality and experience to the table in equal measure, I think we have great potential in getting off to a good start and keeping up the momentum. Shaze Challengers too has a good team and it will come down to the team that copes pressure best," expressed, Dabang Smashers Coach N Ravichandran who was part of the National side in the Commonwealth TT Championships, where they captured three Gold, six Silver, and seven Bronze medals. He will be joined by Serbian-born, Ilija Lupulesku as foreign coach.
Meanwhile, Shaze Challengers camp features Han Ying and Petrissa Solja who are believed to be one of the strongest pairing in the UTT. In Ying, the Challengers can boast of the highest ranked female player in the league. Ying along with Solja, represent Germany at the international level and while Ying prefers a more defensive approach, Solja is famed for the attacking flair she brings to the table. Andrej Gacina and Li Ping complete the formidable squad.
Their Indian contingent features rising star Manav Thakkar along with Soumyajit Ghosh. While Manav at 17 is one of the youngest male Indian star in the Ultimate Table Tennis, 24-year-old Soumyajit has already participated in two Olympics, London in 2012 and Rio in 2016.
In the Indian Women's category, the Challengers have another 17-year-old in Moumita Dutta who displays an aggressive style of play. The right-hander also has 3 Gold medals in the Iran Open under her belt. Complimenting Moumita Dutta's prodigious talent will be veteran Mouma Das.
"Our team has bonded very well over these past few days and understand each other's style of play which I think is quite crucial. Dabang Smashers are a good opponent, with a good mix of players," stated team Coach A Muralidhara.