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Dhanraj Pillay buys team in Mumbai TT League

Dhanraj Pillay

Mumbai : Four-time hockey Olympian and ex-India captain Dhanraj Pillay is the co-owner of a team in the Mumbai Super Table Tennis League which held a players’ auction at the NSCI here today.

Dhanraj, one of the best-known names in Indian hockey, is the co-owner of Blazing Bashers and said ownership of a team will lead to better involvement in the event.

“I like to see the younger generation come forward and play whichever game they love to play. I am the joint secretary of the Air India Sports Promotion Board and table tennis is one of the games I am involved with in that capacity,” said Pillay at the media conference to announce the details of the MSL which is to be held from July 7-10.

“Last year I was the chief guest at the prize distribution function of this League and was impressed by the passion I saw. I told Kamlesh Mehta (former national table tennis champion and chairperson of MSL’s organising committee) that I want to buy a team if possible. Money is not important, but (by buying a team) my involvement will be there. You will see me in shorts and T shirt shouting for my team,” said the four-time World Cupper.

Asked why was he not interested in buying a hockey team, Dhanraj said, “I am ready to buy a team in hockey and (Olympian and ex-teammate) Gavin Ferreira is organising a rink hockey tournament and I am planning to do it,” said the 47-year-old one-time wizard, who led India to the Asian Games gold after 32 years in Bangkok in 1998.

Two-time Olympian Mehta, winner of eight men’s national singles titles and also a former India captain, said last year the event was held as an experiment without player fees.

“We are giving 60 per cent of the money involved in the tournament to the players through fees and prize money. The overall cost of hosting the League will work out between Rs 20 and 25 lakh or even more,” said Mehta.

Sanil Shetty, who won the national men’s singles title in 2013, was the highest buy in the auction for Rs 35,500 while Divya Deshpande (Rs 23,500) got the highest bid among women paddlers at the auction.

Each tie will have nine matches featuring men, women, junior boys and girls, cadets and veterans.

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