Jharkhand girls came agonisingly close to a tennikoit gold yet again, putting in their best but losing to Bengal in the final of the 17th East Zone Tennikoit Championship. The tournament concluded at Cuttack on September 25.
The team (both boys and girls), which returned back to the city on Thursday, were felicitated at a simple ceremony organised by the Jharkhand State Tennikoit Association at Gopal Maidan on Friday.
The five-member girls’ squad, who gave the Bengal players a run for their money in the three-set singles event, lost 1-2.
Skipper D. Hemlata and Saraswati Das led from the front in their respective matches to give hope to Jharkhand, but their Bengal counterparts, who won both in the girls’ and boy’s categories, came up as tough opponents.
Though Hemlata lost the first set against Seema Rani 18-21, she came back strongly to win the second one 21-19.
The third and final game also went the distance before the experienced Hemlata lost 19-21.
With the score 1-0 in favour of Bengal, Jharkhand had to pull something extraordinary off to stay in contention for the title. And they did bounce back in style courtesy Jamshedpur’s Saraswati Das who pulled off a straight win against Bengal’s Raj Laxmi Devi.
Saraswati posted a 21-17 and 21-16 win in her first two sets to kill Raj Laxmi’s challenge and help the state draw level at 1-1.
However, Hemlata could not muster enough fight for the third and deciding match, crashing out 19-21, 18-21 and handing Bengal a win.
Earlier, the Jharkhand girls had kicked-off their campaign in style routing Odisha in straight sets.
While Saraswati drubbed R. Smitha 21-14, 21-12 in the opening game, Hemlata overcame Khushi Kumari 21-18, 21-16 in the second.
The state eves’ outfit then went on to taste success against Tripura through the efforts of Soni Kumari and Annu Kumari, before Hemlata and Saraswati came back to trip Assam in the individual singles.
In the mixed doubles too, the state tasted success thanks to the pair of Soni and Md Usman who beat Bihar 21-7, 21-11 and Odisha 21-18, 21-15. They, however, again lost out to Bengal 18-21, 11-21 when it mattered the most.
The Jharkhand boys on the other hand, had to be satisfied with a bronze yet again.
Starting their campaign with a 3-0 win over both Bihar and Tripura they would have believed that they had it in them to go the distance. However, they faltered against Odisha 1-2 before being routed by eventual winners Bengal 3-0 to finish third. Odisha took the silver in the category.
Irrespective of the hits and misses, Jharkhand State Tennikoet Association president S.R.A. Rizvi Chabban lauded the squad for putting in their best and winning medals at a zonal meet. He also promised regular camps from now on to sharpen their skills.
“I am happy and satisfied with the performance of the team. They tried their best and lost to better teams. I am sure they will put up a better show in the next zonal meet,” Chabban said.
Jharkhand State Tennikoet Association secretary Ali Raza Khan added that the girls, by the virtue of their performance, had automatically qualified for the upcoming inter-zonal meet, the venue for which is yet to be decided.