Mumbai: World men's No 7 Wong Chun Ting of Hong Kong would play for Maharashtra United while India No 1 Sharath Kamal would turn out for RP-SG Mavericks in next month's Ultimate Table Tennis League, following the players' draft held in Mumbai on Friday.
Wong is a bronze medal winner in the last world championships in Dusseldorf, Germany, while the league's second-highest ranked (world No 16) male player, Marcos Freitas of Portugal, will play for Dabang Smashers.
Top seed in the women's category, world No 9 Han Ying of Germany, would figure for Challengers while Wu Yang, the only player from China, will represent Bayside Spinners.
Indian women's No 1 Madhurika Patkar would represent Dabang Smashers in the first edition to be held in three cities - Chennai (13-20 July), Delhi (21-26 July) and Mumbai (27-30 July).
"I am excited to be selected by the Dabang Smashers for the Ultimate Table Tennis. The team has good players and I'm thrilled to play alongside them. This league will definitely help the sport prosper in India. The four Indian players in my team are from ONGC, so it already seems like a good mix to me," said Madhurika.
A total of 24 foreign players, including 21 Olympians, and as many Indian players (both men and women) were drafted into six different franchises at the NSCI.
Soumyajit Ghosh, the youngest Indian Olympian in the fray, was picked by Challengers.
Harmeet Desai, India No 4 in men's category, said, "The Ultimate Table Tennis will offer a great exposure to our Indian players to play alongside top ranking foreign players and also to be trained by the foreign coaches. I am really looking forward to the league."
He will play for Maharashtra United.
Speaking to reporters Vita Dani, co-promoter and chairperson of the league's owners, 1lEven Sports, said each franchise has shelled out Rs 2.6 crore as fees.
"This includes players' fees, their international and internal travel and most other things. We are not here to make money and want to run a low-cost model league," said Vita.
11Even Sports' co-promoter and former national men's singles champion, Niraj Bajaj, said that he personally wanted to give something back to the sport.
"This is the best thing to have happened to table tennis over the last fifty years. This league will give players the opportunity to play with the best in the world. We want to take table tennis to the next level and want India to win a medal in the 2024 Olympic Games," Bajaj said.
Dani said the costliest player would be paid Rs 20 lakh and the cheapest Rs 2.5 lakh.
"We have committed ourselves to run the league for 10 years," she added.
Another former multiple-time national champion, Kamlesh Mehta, who is a director of 11Even Sports, said the League was being set up to help India win an Olympic medal in 2024.
"The league affords the chance for Indian players to train and play together with foreign players for 21 days. This league is not only being supported by the Table Tennis Federation of India but also by the Asian and World TT bodies.
"We have got a dedicated window (June-July every year) to conduct it. This is a unique league where each team will be a mix of men and women. Each team has also young players who will learn a lot," he said.
The coaches for the different teams, including former top players Arup Basak and Saumyajit Roy, sounded happy with their draft picks.
"For the first time table tennis in India is showing a professional approach and I am fortunate to be a part of it," said Roy.
Published Date: Jun 09, 2017 23:19 PM | Updated Date: Jun 09, 2017 23:20 PM