Arguably the most energetic of all national championships, the U18 championship features the country’s best young cagers in their late teens.
Like the Senior Nationals, the Juniors too is a fortnight long all India inter-state tournament organized annually, usually in the months of September-October. The Championship features almost all 29 Indian States and Union territories which compete for the unbeatable honour of being crowned national champions. The Junior National Championship also serves as an important platform to selectors to identify the most talented individual players and coaches and enable them to attend national team training camps for participation in international events.
The venue of the Junior Nationals is decided a few months in advance, generally on a rotational basis, to ensure that different parts of the country get to host this event.
The 25+ teams in each of the boys and girls’ sections are grouped into two levels: Upper Level 1 and lower Level 2. Level 1 features the top 10 teams from the previous championship divided into two groups of five teams each. Level 2 features the remaining teams.
The tournament is played on a league cum knockout basis, with as many as 120 matches played from early morning till late night. Generally the matches are played simultaneously on one indoor and two outdoor courts.
In the league stages, all teams from each group play each other once. The top three Level 1 teams from each of the two groups qualify to the quarterfinals stage. The bottom (i.e. 5th) teams are relegated to the lower Level 1 for next year, while the two fourth placed teams from both the Level 1 groups play pre-quarterfinal games against the top two teams from Level 2.
Level 2 features four Groups (C, D, E and F) usually of 4-5 teams each. After the league stages, the top four teams (one from each Group) play qualifying matches in order to attempt to move to the upper Level. The two winning teams after these qualifying matches immediately qualify to the upper Level in the next edition, replaced the two bottom (i.e. 5th placed) teams from the upper Level 1 Groups. These two Level 2 to Level 1 qualifying teams also play another match which in turn allows the winning team to pick their pre-quarterfinal opponent (basically choosing between either the 4th placed team in Level 1 Group A or the 4th placed team in Level 1 Group B).
For all the remaining Level 2 teams which didn’t qualify to the knockout stages of the main competition, a separate ‘Loser’s Knockout’ Tournament is held between them in order to give these teams much needed match practice, and a chance for them to test their bench strength.
Immediate Tournament History
66 Editions of the Tournament have been held so far. The 2015 edition was held in Ludhiana, Punjab, with Chhattisgarh girls and Tamil Nadu boys being crowned champions.