Mumbai: Six franchisees will look to lock in the best combinations for Season 4 of the Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) when a total of 40 paddlers will feature in the Player Draft, which gets underway at the National Sports Club of India (NSCI), here on Friday.
Bengaluru Smashers, Chennai Lions, Dabang Delhi TTC, Goa Challengers, Puneri Paltan Table Tennis and U Mumba TT will be part of the UTT Season 4, scheduled at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune from July 13 to 30.
Out of the 40 players, 36 will be available for selection after the retentions of Sharath Kamal (Chennai Lions), Sathiyan (Dabang Delhi TTC), Manika (Bengaluru Smashers) and Manav (U Mumba TT) was utilised by four of the six franchisees.
Each team can draft two foreigners -- one male and one female; and four Indians -- two male and two female, to complete their six-member squad.
As Goa Challengers and Puneri Paltan Table Tennis have not retained any players, they will have the opportunity to make their picks in Round 1 while the remaining teams will begin their selections from Round 2.
The draft will be attended by the UTT co-promoter Vita Dani and Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) Secretary General Kamlesh Mehta, alongside franchise owners and Indian table tennis players Achanta Sharath Kamal, Manika Batra, Manav Thakkar and Diya Chitale. The draft pool comprises a diverse array of talent, including top international and Indian paddlers.
Among the foreign players to watch out for are: Aruna Quadri (WR16) from Nigeria, Alvaro Robles (WR43) of Spain, who won the doubles silver medal at the 2019 World Championships, and USA's Lily Zhang (WR24).
Among Indians, the key players in the draft include Commonwealth Games mixed doubles gold medallist Sreeja Akula, who has won back-to-back national titles, Harmeet Desai, a member of the gold medal-winning team at the 2018 and 2022 Commonwealth Games, and exciting young talents such as the U-19 boys national champion Payas Jain, Diya Chitale, S Fidel R Snehit, and Ankur Bhattacharjee.
The franchise-based league is promoted by Niraj Bajaj and Vita Dani under the auspices of the TTFI.—IANS