New Delhi: Indian men paddlers entered the finals of the team championship event after beating England, while the women went down fighting against the same opponents in their semi-final encounter at the 19th Commonwealth Championship here Tuesday. Even as men prevailed 3-2, the women's team lost 2-3 to settle for a bronze medal.
Indian men will now take on mighty Singapore, who defeated Malaysia 3-0, in the finals Wednesday. The host team, seeded above England, was shocked in the first match when Achantha Sharath Kamal was humbled by 545th ranked Samuel Walker. The young Englishman who was celebrating his 19th birthday defeated the Indian veteran 12-10 4-11 12-10 11-9 to give visitors a 1-0 lead.
But Soumyajit Ghosh sprung up a surprise as he crushed England's leading medal winner of all time in the Commonwealth Games, Andrew Baggaley, in straight games. With his aggressive forehand play, Ghosh completed a resounding 11-7 11-8 11-4 win over five-time CWG medal winner to level the rubber for the hosts. England's highest ranked player in the tournament, Baggaley (143) looked woefully out of touch and was comprehensively beaten by Sharath Kamal in the reverse match after India's Harmeet Desai lost to Daniel Reed.
The onus was then on Soumyajit to take the Indians to the finals and he faced the paddler who had proved to be the nemesis of Sharath Kamal in the opening match. The 19-year-old Ghosh, with minimum fuss, got the better off Walker 11-7 12-10 11-6 to enter the finals of the event for the fifth successive time. "I was little nervous when Sharath bhaiya lost his match. I had beaten (Andrew) Baggaley in the world team championships last year and was confident of beating him again. I was on top of my game today," Ghosh said.
Earlier, trailing 0-2 in the semi-finals, Indian women posed a fearless challenge to the higher-seeded English side at the Thyagaraj Stadium. In the first contest, Mouma Das twice came from behind before losing to Kelly Sibley 2-3. While experienced England paddler Joanna Parker overwhelmed Madhurika Patkar in straight games. Neha Aggrawal, who had yesterday shocked world No 91 from Singapore, looked at ease against her opponent Hannah Hicks as she won the opening two games 11-7 11-9.
However, in the next two, the Delhi girl made several unforced errors that allowed Hicks to come back into the match and level it 2-2. Neha, however, did not give up. Playing an attacking game, she won 11-9 and wrapped up the match in her favour. The Indian team had a great opportunity to humble the English side when Mouma sailed over Parker, visitors most experienced campaigner, with ease 11-4 11-6 11-3.
But in the decider, Madhurika lost to Sibley. The Indian started off well and claimed the first game. The 24-year-old English girl, however, came back strongly to win the next three to set up a gold medal clash against Singapore. "I was nervous at the start of the final match. I was rushing in the first game and conceded points. In the subsequent games I was more relaxed. We have played the Indian team before and knew their weak points," Sibley said after her match. "In the finals we have nothing to lose as we will be up against the best side," she added.