by Neha Aggarwal
Table tennis in India will take a new direction as a franchise based league has been announced by 11Even Sports (ESPL), a company formed exclusively for the promotion and development of table tennis in the country.
Ultimate Ping Pong Championship will be played over 18 days, in three Indian cities. Delhi and Mumbai have been confirmed but the third city has not been finalized as yet. A total of 48 players (24 Indians and the rest from abroad) will be divided into six teams. An equal number of men and women will be part of this league which will comprise of 18 matches, out of which 15 will be league matches, two semi-finals and one final. Each team will also feature an Under 21 player.
Many top players from India and other nationalities have already been signed up but ESPL has not announced the names as yet. Additionally, the company is keen on signing up as many players as possible from the top 50 ranking in the world to bring the best possible level of table tennis to India.
Furthermore, the format of the matches has also not been disclosed as yet, but Kamlesh Mehta, director of ESPL, promises a new exciting and entertaining format.
Based in the city of Mumbai, in the western state of Maharashtra, 11Even Sports has entered into a 10-year agreement with the Table Tennis Federation of India to develop the sport of table tennis in India. The company was formed by Vita Dani, a business woman and active promoter of sports in India. Eight time Indian National Champion in table tennis, Kamlesh Mehta is the director of ESPL and aims to see India as one of the big powerhouses of table tennis worldwide.
“Through Ultimate Ping Pong Championship, we are embarking on an exciting journey of transforming table tennis from being largely a recreational activity in India to a mainstream sport,” Vita Dani, chairperson, ESPL told the Times of India, a leading Indian daily.
“The success of the recently concluded ITTF World Tour India Open in Delhi gives us the confidence for creating a compact and permanent fixture in the international calendar window for an Indian origin world level event. We are working on adding a few innovative concepts which would bring in audience excitement and newer challenge to the participants,” she added.
Table tennis does not get visibility on Indian television as compared to much popular sports like Cricket, Tennis, Soccer and Badminton. ESPL is dedicated towards making that change and developing the game both commercially and professionally.