Indian Table Tennis could face a massive storm in the coming days, which could see Manika Batra, Sutirtha Mukherjee, Soumyadeep Roy and Sanmay Paranjap suspended for their alleged role in the Olympic qualification match in Doha in March this year. The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Integrity Unit, known for its zero-tolerance policy in unethical matters.
After returning from Tokyo, Manika Batra levelled match-fixing allegations against national coach Soumyadeep Roy that he had asked her to lose to Sutirtha Mukherjee in the Olympic qualification match in Doha this year. But it could backfire after her coach Sanmay Paranjape’s text message contradicted her claim, according to The Hindu.
Manika was served with a show-cause notice by the Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) after refusing national coach Roy’s help during her singles matches in Tokyo. In her reply, she denied charges of indiscipline and instead alleged Roy had “pressurised” her to concede the match.
According to The Hindu, as part of the documents submitted by the TTFI to the international body, International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), a text message from Sanmay was sent to a former player on March 19 at 11.14 a.m. has the potential to blow the lid off Manika’s claims.
It 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.”
Sutirtha Mukherjee needed a win to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, which she did and gained the South Asian Olympic quota. Had she lost, her qualification on ranking would have been doubtful.
Another document presented to the ITTF is from an ITTF-certified Blue Badge Umpire, officiating during the qualifying tournament in Doha.
His statement reads: “I am testifying what I witnessed on March 18, 2021, and reconfirming the talks I had with Mr Sanmay Paranjape on the morning of the match between Ms Manika Batra and Ms Sutirtha Mukherjee.
“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 Ms Sutirtha Mukherjee won against Manika because the latter would automatically qualify on her world rankings. When Mr 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.”
Manika’s severe allegations against Roy led to a legal battle with the TTFI. The Indian table tennis body had even formed a five-member inquiry panel to probe star player Manika Batra’s match-fixing allegations.