Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB) will start favourites to retain the men's and women's team titles as well as singles crowns at the 84th Inter-State National Table Tennis Championships, which begin in Jammu on Monday. (More Sports News)
Fortunately, or unfortunately, such has been the domination of the PSPB teams and its individual players over the years that it is almost impossible to breach their run.
PSPB men, who have dominated for a quarter of a century, would go for the 26th title, and it would be the same combination that achieved the feat in Shillong last year.
The spearhead will be the Commonwealth Games multiple gold-medal winner Achanta Sharath Kamal, a 10-time singles champion, who will have the company of other CWG medal winners in G Sathiyan, the former national champion, Harmeet Desai, Sanil Shetty and Manav Thakkar, the youngest of the lot.
Their women's team, however, has ringed in a minor change with the induction of promising Yashashwini Ghorpade, who is making waves with her consistency as a youth player.
Barring the Bengaluru girl, the squad has a familiar look to it and is in the hands of 2018 CWG golden girl Manika Batra, Archana Kamath, Reeth Rishya and Krittwika Sinha Roy. They did the trick last time in the company of Madhurika Patkar, and even with a little tweak in the script this time, the team's goal remains the same.
After the first three days, the qualifications in singles will begin, but with entries touching about 900 in both sections, things will reach the crescendo during the main draw.
The attraction of the championships, apart from the maximum ranking points, is the prize purse of Rs 16 lakhs, with the singles winner getting Rs 2.75 lakh in each section. All three doubles events will also have prize money.
With the Asian Games scheduled this September-October in Hangzhou, China, the players will seek ranking points to stand a better chance of getting the selectors' nod.