The Indian boys entered the final of the 22nd Asian Junior and Cadet Table Tennis Championships at Ulaanbaatar beating South Korea 3-2 to ensure a silver medal for the team and also directly qualify for the World Junior Championships, to be held at Korat (Thailand) in November this year.
Earlier, China blanked out Taipei 3-0 and will take on India in the final later on Wednesday. Top three teams at the continental event here qualify for the Worlds but with no third-place playoff, the third team's fate will be decided on the individual players' performance from Tapei and Korea-the bronze medallists-and other teams, including Japan. In the individual events, which begin from Thursday, Japanese players stand a good chance to qualify as the third squad for the Worlds.
This was the second consecutive final for the Junior Boys, who are seeded No. 2 behind China, and it was achieved when Anukram Jain, playing the third singles in the semi-finals, did what Harmeet Desai had done in the World Championships to put India in the Championships Division and again in the Commonwealth Championships this July in Cuttack to help Indian men win gold.
Though Manush Shah, India's No. 1 junior player and ranked No. 7 in the world, gave a winning start defeating Park Gyuhyeon 5-11, 11-6, 15-13, 11-1 in the tough opener, the second-best Raegan Albuquerque lost the second singles tamely to Korea's Kim Woojin 6-11, 5-11, 10-12. It was then Jain payed the gamechanger against Lee Gihun. It was a very dicey first game for the Indian as after squandering two game points he won it 14-12. This gave the lanky Rajasthan player a distinct advantage in the second as he managed to pull it off in the second to go 2-0 up. However, the Korean came back nicely in the third to pull one back and the Indian, without wasting time, attacked in the next using both flanks to score a crucial 14-12, 11-9, 7-11, 11-3 triumph.
Yet, Manush Shah could not do much against the Korea's No. 1 player in the fourth game as Kim decimated the left-hander 11-6, 11-5, 12-10 to level the score and give themselves a fair chance. But Raegan had other ideas as he opened with authority against Park and hastened Korea's exit, despite losing the second game, with 11-7, 7-11, 11-8, 11-6 score.
Jain had to perform a similar role in the morning as well in the quarterfinals when India beat Thailand 3-1. After Raegan had provided the lead against Yanapong Panagitgun (3-2), Shah lost his singles to Wattanachal in straight games before Jain brought India back on track, beating Thyme Sanglertsilpachai (3-1). Then Shah defeated Yanapong 3-0 to seal a semi-final berth for India.
Earlier, the Junior Girls bowed out in the quarterfinals losing 0-3 to Japan, while in the Cadet section, both our boys and girls teams failed to enter the main draw.