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Table Tennis

Manika Batra's match-fixing allegations can backfire after coach's text is revealed

Manika Batra & co. could be suspended by the ITTF Integrity Unit after Sanmay Paranjape's message indicate foul play in Olympic qualifying event.

Manika Batra at Tokyo Olympics
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Manika Batra at Tokyo Olympics (Source: Reuters)

By

The Bridge Desk

Published: 28 Oct 2021 7:07 AM GMT

It is spelling troubled waters in the Indian table tennis camp once again and of course, the names of Manika Batra, Soumyadeep Roy, Sutirtha Mukherjee and one Sanmay Paranjape is involved. Fetching the attention of the International Table Tennis Federation's (ITTF) Integrity Unit who believes in a zero tolerance policy on unethical matters, the quartet could face the wrath of the organisation as the matter has reached very serious stages. Certain text messages on Manika's coach, Sanmay's phone is contradicting the serious allegations Batra has levied against Soumyadeep Roy and the TTFI and a lot of foul play is being suspected now.

To recap, Manika Batra, after the conclusion of the Tokyo Olympics had alleged the Chief National Coach for Table Tennis, Soumyadeep Roy of match-fixing by having requested and pressurised Manika Batra to throw away her match against Roy's student, Sutirtha Mukherjee so that the latter can seal her Tokyo berth in the Asian qualifiers earlier this year in Doha, during March. As it so happened on March 18, Batra did go on to lose the match and Sutirtha won and secured her spot for Tokyo. In any case, Batra was going to make the cut because of her rankings but for Sutirtha, it would have been difficult to qualify.

Soumyadeep Roy and Sutirtha Mukherjee (Source: SAI)

This hefty allegation against Soumyadeep Roy has led to a very gruesome battle featuring Manika Batra against the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) and has even brought in the High Court to intervene and conduct an inquiry into this matter. With the water running so deep, the word has now reached the ears of the ITTF's Integrity Unit and a probable suspension of all four individuals are imminent now, based on the findings, as reported by Sportstar.

Foul play at work?

Manika Batra and Sanmay Paranjape (Source: TNN)

The TTFI submitted a list of documents related to the ongoing case to the ITTF committee overseeing the matter and in one of the documents, there is a text message from Sanmay Paranjape, that is spelling trouble for the quartet as it can very well rule out Manika's allegations. The text message is from March 19 and was sent at 11:14 am, as Sportstar reports, and it was sent to a former player whose name hasn't been disclosed.

The message from Paranjape reads: "My respect for Manika has doubled now. What she did for Sutirtha that too after facing so much in life! She reached a position where she could help or not help! She chose to help! This is real strength, good heart and real positive mind! Real big hearted lady she is. Country matters."

Of course, this message is enough to suspect foul play being involved in the Doha matches but there is further troubling evidence from the tournament.

One more document that was presented is from a ITTF-certified Blue Badge Umpire, who officiated in the qualifying tournament in Doha.

The statement of the Umpire reads: "I am testifying what I witnessed on March 18, 2021, and reconfirming the talks I had with Paranjape on the morning of the match between Manika and Sutirtha."

What the Umpire has testified to has only spread the doubts and roused more confusion in the camp.

"We were all euphoric about two Indians qualifying for the Olympics because it was already in the air. It could have happened only one way, and that was if Sutirtha won against Manika, because the latter would automatically qualify on her world rankings. When Paranjape came and exchanged pleasantries with me, I asked if both Indians were going to Tokyo. He smilingly replied that "you guessed it right." In fact, when he came for the match in the evening, I asked why he came to the venue, instead of resting at the hotel since we knew the result (Sutirtha's victory), he laughed it off saying he came to watch the match," the Umpire has testified.

In any case, the matter has blown out of proportion and of course, the ITTF has wind of it now. Headed by Kevin Carpenter, the ITTF's Integrity Committee will peruse these documents and arrive at a decision. A lot of virtual meetings have taken place already with the stakeholders and the ITTF is soon to deliver a verdict. Although there isn't any concrete information yet but sources mention that all four of them can be suspended by the ITTF based on the findings and their involvement in manipulating the results of a tournament, as Sportstar relays.

Meanwhile, Manika Batra's High Court hearing is also scheduled to happen on October 28th, 2021 where the player had petitioned against the TTFI to include her for the Asian Championships squad that took place in late September. The TTFI had left Batra out because the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist refrained from attending the National Camp prior to the event. However, in the last hearing, the High Court had ruled in favour of Batra and imposed a stay order on the policy of making National Camp's mandatory.

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