Sharath Kamal, Manika Batra among top Indian stars to be retained by franchises for UTT 2024
17 Jun, 2024

New Delhi, June 17, 2024: The experienced duo of Achanta Sharath Kamal and Manika Batra were among the five Indian paddlers who were retained by their respective franchises ahead of the upcoming Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) 2024, which will be played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai from August 22 to September 7.

Last season’s runners-up Chennai Lions retained the services of legend Sharath Kamal, while Bengaluru Smashers opted to continue with the highest-ranked Indian, Batra, as the franchises preferred to stick with their top paddlers for the upcoming season.

The franchise-based league, promoted by Niraj Bajaj and Vita Dani under the auspices of the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI), has been a game-changer for Indian table tennis since its inception in 2017. It will be an eight-team league for the first time, providing a platform for young Indian paddlers to exhibit their talent alongside the world’s elite players. This significant expansion aims to elevate the standard of competition and foster the growth of emerging talent within the sport.

Defending champions Goa Challengers have retained Harmeet Desai, who played a pivotal role in their success last season, while Sathiyan Gnanasekaran will continue with Dabang Delhi TTC. U Mumba TT have also extended their association with talented youngster Manav Thakkar for yet another season.

“Over the years, the franchises have not only looked to win titles but also focused on building the core of their team around their star player who can lead the team. The same thought process is visible in the player retention for UTT 2024 as we see the five franchises sticking to their star performers for yet another season,” UTT promoters Niraj Bajaj and Vita Dani said in a joint statement.

According to the rules of the league, the six existing franchises were allowed to retain one Indian player. Puneri Paltan Table Tennis, who have decided not to retain any player, and new entrants Jaipur Patriots and Ahmedabad SG Pipers will select a player of their choice in the first round of the player draft. The first round will have only three picks.

The countdown for the new season began with all eight franchises picking up one foreigner and one Indian coach from the Coach Draft and will now look to build a six-player squad that will include four Indians and two foreigners (one male and one female).

The new season will also see a change in the tournament format due to the inclusion of two more teams. The eight teams will now be divided into two groups of four teams each. Each franchise will play five ties during the league stage, facing the other three teams within their respective group and two randomly selected teams from the other group once.

The top two teams from each group will then qualify for the semi-finals.

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