With the rest of the world gripped in football fever on the eve of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, fans in India will have the luxury to switch to some other action as well, as the second season of the Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) gets underway here from Thursday.
Achanta Sharath Kamal (Warriors), Gnanesekaran Sathiyan (Dabang Smashers), Liam Pitchford (Falcons), Simon Gauzy (Empowerji Challengers), Harmeet Desai (RP-SG Mavericks) and Joao Monteiro (Maharashtra United) will lead the six franchises in what the organisers promise to be a bigger and better tournament.
Defending champions Falcons TTC are confident of an encore as they prepare to face Maharashtra United in the opener at the Balewadi Indoor Stadium here on Thursday.
Both teams will play three men's and women's singles matches each and one mixed doubles match in the tie.
After the Pune leg, which concludes on June 19, CEAT UTT put together by 11SPORTS and Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) heads to Delhi's Thyagaraj stadium from June 20-25 before the final leg at Kolkata's Netaji Indoor Stadium from June 26 to July 1.
The first and fourth-placed teams will play the first semi-final on June 29 while the second and third-placed teams play the second semi-final, the next day.
The final will be played on July 1.
A hefty prize of Rs 3 crore is up for grabs as the teams battle for top honours over 18 days of intense competition.
The winners will be richer by Rs one crore while the runners-up will bag Rs 75 lakh. Both losing semi-finalists will get Rs 25 lakh each.
In all, players from 19 countries and 24 Olympians will be competing in the event.