The much-awaited 36th National Games will get under way here on Tuesday, with the crème de la crème of India’s table tennis stepping into the spotlight well before the grand Opening Ceremony on September 29.
Hosts Gujarat have left no stone unturned to not only offer the best Games ever to the country but are also hoping to pick up the first gold medal on Wednesday, with the dynamic duo of Harmeet Desai and Manav Thakkar leading the charge.
“Gujarat is already a big force in Indian table tennis,” one of India’s all-time TT greats Kamlesh Mehta said. “With Harmeet, Manav and Manush Shah in their ranks, they are favourites to win the men’s title,” he added.
Mega TT stars Sharath Kamal, G Sathiyan and Manika Batra are among the favourites for the singles and doubles titles which are expected to throw up fascinating battles. Table tennis crazy Surat is expected to turn out in huge numbers to watch their heroes in action.
Players who are part of the Indian contingent for the World Championships later in the month will hope to get into their groove over the next five days. Indeed, the Gujarat Government has scheduled the TT competition ahead of the official start of the Games to ensure that they participate here as well as in the World Championships in China.
Apart from picking up the first few medals in TT, Gujarat will be hoping to improve on the ninth-place finish in the 35th edition in Kerala. They have strong medal prospects in swimming, tennis, volleyball, athletics, triathlon and wrestling.
The State Government has done a fantastic job in preparing the venues for the Games in merely three months. The Indian Olympic Association and the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports saw an opportunity to host the Games in this tiny window once the 2022 Asian Games got postponed.
“In the past, the States had several years to prepare for the Games. But Gujarat has undertaken the task of hosting these Games in a time window of three months thanks to the infrastructure built over the years,” Gujarat Sports Minister Harsh Sanghvi said while addressing students of the Veer Narmad South Gujarat University recently.
Quite naturally, Gujarat’s top stars are equally excited to get a chance to compete in front of the home crowd and are confident of a strong showing. Swimmer Maana Patel, who bagged three Gold at the 2015 National Games at the age of 14, is excited that she would get to compete in her own backyard and win more medals for the State. “Being a Gujarati, it’s a moment of pride that my State is hosting the 36th National Games this time,” she said.
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National Games: Rosy Meena Paulraj breaks the women’s pole vault national record
At the ongoing National Games in Gujarat, Indian pole vaulter Rosy Meena Paulraj broke VS Surekha’s eight-year-old record by setting a new one for the women’s division.
This pole vaulter from Tamil Nadu recorded a jump of 4.20 m during the pole vault competition at the National Games. With this, she smashed VS Surekha’s previous record of 4.15 m, which had stood for eight years.
“New National Record Rosy Meena Paulraj #TamilNadu set new #NationalRecord in Women’s Pole Vault with the jump of 4.20m at the #NationalGames2022 She broke 8-year-old record that was set by V. S. Surekha (4.15) Many congratulations Champ!! #36thNationalGames,” tweeted SAI Media.
The 36th National Games were opened on Thursday at Ahmedabad’s Narendra Modi Stadium by the prime minister.
For the first time ever, the national games are being held in Gujarat. From September 29 to October 12, 2022, it will be held. The largest National Games ever will take place with about 15,000 athletes, coaches, and officials competing in 36 sports disciplines from throughout the nation. The six cities of Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot, and Bhavnagar will host the athletic activities.
Pakistan’s spinners trick powerless Malaysia; started the Women’s Asia Cup with a nine-wicket win
Spinners Omaima Sohaila and Tuba Hassan with their bowling spell helped Pakistan in clinching a clear win of 9 wickets over Malaysia in their opening match of the Women’s Asia Cup 2022. The campaign opener match was played in Bangladesh’s Sylhet on Sunday.
Pakistan kicked off the campaign with their win but the game ended in a heart-aching defeat for the Malaysian team.
In the first innings, Pakistan restricted Malaysia to just 57/9 in 20 overs. Elsa Hunter scored more than half of the runs for her team and was not out at 29 off 51 balls. Omaima Sohail did wonders for Pakistan with her bowling. She took three wickets in three overs while giving away just 19 runs and did not let the opposition score beyond 57 runs. The chase was a cakewalk for the Pakistan team.
Chasing 58, Pakistan was off to a good start. Openers Muneeba Ali and Sidra Ameen were dealing with boundaries majorly, finding gaps at will.
Malaysia’s Mahirah Izzati Ismail gave her team the first wicket, dislodging Ameen’s stumps for 31 off 23 balls. Pakistan was now 45/1 in six overs.
However, skipper Bismah Maroof (8) and Ali (21) took 61/1 in nine overs and won the game by three wickets.
Ismail (1/8) took her side’s only wicket for Malaysia.
Pakistan won the toss and sent Malaysia to bat. The start was a nightmare for the Malaysian team. Pakistan’s spinners demolished the Malaysian top order by sending Winifred Duraisingam (0), Mas Elysa (3), wicketkeeper-batter Wan Julia (11), Mahira Izzati Ismail (1) and Ainna Hamizah Hashim (0) without adding much to the scorecard.
Half of the Malaysian side was in the pavilion at a score of 29 in 11.2 overs. Hunter tried to keep one end steady, but there was absolutely nothing stopping Pakistani spinners, who seemed to get the best out of the surface. The result was her being left as the last one standing at 29* off 51 balls, while the rest of her team was restricted to 57/9 in 20 overs. Only two batters could score in double digits and five batters could not even open their accounts.
Sohail (3/19), Hassan (2/13) were stars of Pakistani bowling. Diana Baig and Sadia Iqbal got one each.
Hassan was adjudged as ‘Player of the Match for her spell of 2/13.
With this victory, Pakistan is at third number with two points in the points tally, while Malaysia is at fourth with zero points.
Indian Trap Mixed team campaign over in ISSF world Championship
The Indian Trap Mixed Team fizzled out of the ISSF World Championship Shotgun in Osijek, Croatia, as both the teams in contention could not make it to the medal matches from the qualification round.
The pair of Vivaan Kapoor and Shreyasi Singh finished 15th with a score of 140 out of 150 while Prithviraj Tondaiman and Manisha Keer were further back with 138 for a 24th place finish. The top six pairs out of 56 would make it to the medal matches with the top two making it to the gold medal match.
The Italian pair of Mauro Di Filippis and Giulia Grassia topped the table with a score of 144. They were tied with Great Britain and China on the same score before winning a shoot-out to claim top billing. Great Britain followed them into the gold medal match.
India is still searching for a second medal in the Shotgun World Championships.
Earlier in this tournament Bhowneesh Mendiratta claimed India’s first Paris Olympics quota spot in shooting on debut at the ISSF Shotgun World Championships. Mendiratta claimed 4th place overall in the men’s Trap final.
Mendiratta won his ranking round with an almost perfect score of 24/25, which enabled him to qualify for the medal match and ultimately a spot in the Paris 2024 team.
This first competition of the World Championship can win them quota for the Olympics: Samaresh Jung
Samaresh Jung has been one of the torch-bearers for shooting in India. In a storied career that lasted for over a decade, Samaresh has won many a laurel for India including a whopping seven medals in the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Nicknamed ‘Goldfinger’ for his tremendous achievement in the sport of shooting, Samaresh has moved on to coaching now in his attempt to give it back to the sport that has given so much fame and adulation in life.
We had an opportunity to catch up in an exclusive chat during the National Games 2022, where he spoke at length about various topics on Indian shooting.
Q. Tell us about the preparation of the Air Pistol shooters for the National Games and Paris 2024.
A. Firstly, National games were not in the plan. It just popped up. Of course, it will be a stepping stone for the shooters and also a kind of performance check for them. India collected 15 medals in shooting- five gold, six silver and four bronze to top the medals tally at the shooting World Cup held recently. I believe this has been truly a more than decent performance by the Indian shooting team. Now, the real goal is the World Championship and Paris Olympics. Also, the National Games 2022 is a good platform and will boost up their confidence. There is excitement amongst the sports stars as well, as this event is happening after seven years.
Q. What are your expectations from the shooters at the National Games?
A. Air Pistol squad comprises Shiva Narwal (Haryana) Naveen (Services) and Sagar Dangi (UP). In girls we have Manu Bhaker (Haryana), Palak Ghulia (Haryana), Rhythm Sangwan (Haryana) and Yuvika Tomar (UP) and other top performers. So, the squad consists of 16 men and 16 women shooters and they have all their guns ready in real sense. They are just waiting to blaze when the time comes.
Needless to say, after the National Games, the first competition of the World Championship can win them a quota for the Olympics too. They just need to perform well consistently.
Q. What’s the strategy this time if you want to open up a bit?
A. Strategy, basically is that we have young shooters, some experienced and some not so experienced. We are training them hard. They have great ability and they just need to focus on becoming good competitors and performers too. As I say, the mantra is “Do not concentrate on the concentration, concentrate on the work you are doing at that particular point of time.”
Siki Reddy & Rohan enter semis of Vietnam Open
Indian mixed doubles team duo of Siki Reddy and Rohan Kapoor registered a stunning victory over Chan Peng Soon and Cheah Yee See of Malaysia to cruise into the semifinals of the Vietnam Open Super 1000 tournament here on Friday.
The Indian pair were at their imperious best and beat the third seed Malaysian duo in 21-19, 21-17 in just 39 minutes to inch a step closer to glory in Vietnam.
They will face the top seed team of Rehan Naufal and Kusharjanto and Lisa Kusumawati of Indonesia in the last four.
Starting the match, they did not have the best of the starts and trailed 3-6. But they maintained their calm and stayed hot on their opponent’s heel. After some back-and-forth action, Siki and Rohan picked up four consecutive points to race ahead and eventually seal the opening game.
They picked up from where they left in the opening game and despite facing stiff challenges, they held on and raced towards victory.
Harmanpreet backs out of form Shefali to come good in Asia Cup
India opener Shafali Verma received the backing of skipper Harmanpreet Kaur ahead of the T20 women’s Asia Cup 2022, as she looks to turn around her poor form.
In a recently concluded England tour, Shefali was unable to score a half-century across formats. As a matter of fact, in six innings, she was dismissed under 10 four times.
However, Harmanpreet feels Shefali it is only a matter of time before she hits form and expects the opener to get enough matches under her belt at the Asia Cup.
“From the practice sessions we’ve had, I can say she is doing really well. It’s part of life – sometimes you play well, sometimes you can’t continue your good form. But she’s looking good and it’s just a matter of spending some time in the middle for her to get out of her [rough] patch. She is working hard every day. This is a platform where you can express yourself and play free cricket. We will try to give her enough match time so that she can get her confidence back,” Harmanpreet said in a pre-match virtual press conference.
The squad features many new names, such as S Meghana, Dayalan Hemalatha and Kiran Navgire – all heavy run-hitters in domestic cricket and on the fringes of the national team.
“Our first target will be to give enough chances to other players who haven’t got [opportunities] so far. Definitely, there are a lot of areas where we want to work on as a team, especially how we are going to use the first six overs [while batting],” Harmanpreet said.
“We will try to shuffle our middle order so that others can also get some time. In the last overs also, we have some hard hitters, so if we can give them enough chances… In our bowling, we will try different combinations. This tournament is important for us, it’s a great platform where players who haven’t got chances can come and perform. If they perform here, they can get a lot of confidence going into the World Cup,” she added.
Team India is riding a massive wave of confidence as they recently won an ODI series 3-0 against England. The in-form batter Harmanpreet is also confident as she played a whirlwind 143 not-out knock in the second ODI in England.
“I think I have felt that responsibility right from when I started. It’s something I’ve enjoyed. Since the time I’ve been a full-time captain, I am enjoying it a lot. My teammates, support staff, selectors, the BCCI – everyone has been appreciative. You just need support, and the only thing left after that is performance and we are all focused on performances. We all talk only about having each other’s back and needing to go out and express ourselves,” the India captain said.
India’s Asia Cup campaign begins on the opening day against Sri Lanka on Saturday. Seven teams, including India, will first fight it out in a round-robin format group stage with the top four qualifying for the semi-finals. The winners from the semis will face off in the final on October 15.
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