Press Report of Raju Chainani 1989

 

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Indian Express 13-1-1989

CRYSTAL gazing is an art which seems to have been perfected by certain officials of the Maharshtra Squash Association.     After     Adrian Ezra's   historic   victory   over "Meherwan   Daruvala   in   last" week's Nationals there  is  an l told you so attitude by these fortune tellers.

The facts of the matter speak for themselves. At the conclusion of the Western India, Meherwan had won two out of three, encounters with Adrian. But since the team names, apparently, had to be submitted by the end of November, it was decided that Adrian would play number one. Mind you. There wasn't even a play-off, bearing in mind the previous results.

The one-two-buckle-my-shoe "saga took a new turn when Meherwan won the Northern Indian final ten days later. Now there were a few red faces as there was enough ground to justify Meherwan taking pole position. The selectors, however, kept their stand and even suggested that this was strategic planning on their part. After all. Ravinder Malik, the Services champion had not beaten Adrian for two years.

The twist in the tale came at Madras where it was said that whoever won the final or performed the better between the two would play at number one. After all, said the officials, the team names had to be submitted one day before the Inter-State commenced.

Those are the facts of the matter. They show a conflict of opinion between what has been officially disclosed to the public and what is actually correct. There is no escaping from the fact that before the Nationals (I stress the word before because it is here that a State team is selected and not at the eleventh hour), Meherwan was top of the pops. More so, he was seeded number one for the Nationals, ahead of Adrian. But certain powers-that-be decided otherwise. And now, the circus is in full swine whilst these stargazers, who could not tell you the difference between St. Paul and Popeye, continue, to sip their gin and tonics.

THERE was ample evidence in Madras to suggest that Darius Pandole would be a serious contender to the throne, He was delightful to watch as he overcame Narjit and glorious in defeat against Meherwan. That was the match of the tournament, worthy of a final. The early retrieving and deft tough of Darius probing into the near impregnable defence of Meherwan. It was squash, beautiful squash.

The gap between these two and the new champion Adrian is very small. Darius has worked very hard on his stamina and will be a force to reckon with at the February Masters.

Adrian looked impressive right from the start. He has been a thorn in the flesh of Meherwan this season. At Chepauk, the two left-handers fought out another battle royal. The eight years difference in age and a fitter opponent were the deciding factors in the end. A new champ was born. His dedication and skill had won the day where some of his contemporaries may have buckled.

There is a lot more squash left this season. The Invitational Masters are in just over a month's time when the top eight compete for record prize money. Adrian, Meherwan, Darius, Malik, Narjit and Vikas Kapur have booked their places. The other two should come from Arjun Singh, Manchanda, Dev Malani, Rashid Jahangir and Vaman Apte. Dushwant Jamwhal could be a contender as indeed a case be made out for Lt. R. S. Brar and Lt. A. Ganguly. There is a whisper about overseas participation. We will know very shortly.

A final thought. The Brabourne Stadium has always enjoyed the reputation of being a good batting wicket. Alas, the same cannot be said of the much talked about glass-back squash court. The joke around the circuit is that the players aim for the rough. Very sad indeed that Bombay squash has to be played on this spinning wicket.

Ezra back for the hunt

Mid-day 25-11-1989

ADRIAN EZRA, will be in India soon to defend his National Squash title. His manager RAJU CHAINANI spoke to SHARDA UGRA on Ezra's prospects in the 1989-90 squash season.

ADRIAN Ezra, just 18 and yet the   reigning   Indian   national squash   champion   returns   to his homeland next week and begins a hectic season of squash.

He plays the Nationals and the Maharashtra State championships in quick succession and then moves onto the Asian championships in early 1990. Later he will go to Europe to compete in the prestigious Drysdale Cup and the star event, the World Junior Championships in West Germany in August 1990. All eyes will be on him, to evaluate his game and the results of his stay in England.

Ezra has been in England for the past few months, training with the Stripes Club in London. The rewards of this training have begun to show in his international ranking. His rank has moved up from 193 to 135, and he has won the Danish and Newberry under-19 titles and the Frome Cup (for men).

All these successes, at times, seem to overshadow the fact that Ezra, despite his skill as a squash player, is only eighteen. Tennis has seen numerous teen prodigies gather successes and then fall victims of over­kill. Two people involved in ensuring that Ezra's career is correctly handled are his father and his manager Raju Chainani.

Chainani has been associated with the Ezras for a long time, and has watched Adrian grow. Describing his job as the teenager's manager, he says, "We try and see what tournaments would be best for him, to participate in. In the last three years I've seen a transformation from an above average junior to someone who is a very fine player."

But never for one moment does Chainani get Adrian and his game out of perspective. When asked about Ezra's temperament, he says, He's a kid, okay. You mustn't forget that, It's taking time for him to developmental strength that makes him a complete player. It's something were worried about. But he's had coaching, has been getting the experience, he's been learning."

The reasons for Ezra's national titles and numerous victories, Chainani says, "can be summoned in one word perspiration! He works very hard, and there's no substitute for that. He trams in the morning, trains in the evening."

When asked if Ezra misses being an average college student (he was enrolled at   Sydenham before he left for England) Chainani reminds us once again about his age, "Of course he does," But Ezra has reconciled himself to that, as he knows that average college students are not the stuff out of which national champions are made.

"He is really benefiting in England He's someone to look after him there" (his grandmother) "which is very important. In England he is getting good competition. When you lose to a better player you team, the players there are of a world standard. In England he gets thrashed by them. That's when you start thinking, why can't I be like them?"

Ezra shot to instant fame when he beat Meherwan Daruwalla in the finals of the National Championships in 1988 at the age of 17.

Successor

The teenager is the natural successor to the men's squash crown after Col Raj Manchanda and Meherwan Daruwalla. Chainani dismisses the idea that these two men ruled Ac roost for the want of top class competition, which Ezra now is.

"Raj Manchanda won titles when he was 35 plus that is to his credit. He's a clever player youngsters can learn from him. When Adrian first played him. he was confused. All that Manchanda did was make Adrian do all the running. You could clearly see the difference between age and experience. The next year Adrian was a year more experienced and Manchanda a year older, and Adrian just ran him off the court.

When Adrian played Daruwalla in the North India championships and at Bombay Gymn, he lost. But these were very close matches. So when Adrian beat him at the CCI, it was no surprise. It had been very obvious that he had been breathing down Daruwalla neck for a long time. And it would be unfair to say that there has been no competition. There are a lot of strong players around. Darius Pandole, Ravinder Malik, Narjit Singh."

It is obvious that Chainani cannot allow Ezra to get complacent about his international wins and training. "He can do much better than No 135.

We are hoping that he can end up in the high eighties after his international performances in the coming season."

Adrian is in the running for both the under 19 and men's national titles. His is not the only case. In 1965, Anil Nayar won both the junior and men's tides. Says Chainani "You can't say for one moment that Adrian was a better player than Anil.. There was a two-year gap between them (when they achieved this rare double, Anil was 19 and Adrian 17) Anil was a stroke-player. Adrian's game is more along the lines of what squash is today fitness. Adrian is very fit He can run a player into the ground. Look at Jansher, he keeps the ban in play and go on and on. That's the changing face of the game, Jansher, Jahangir, Geoff Hunt have all been very fit men."

Chainani is not interested in any comparisons or in building castles in the air when talking of Ezra's future. "It's dangerous to compare a dump of today with anyone. Adrian wants very much to get the top. He hates to lose."

That's all he will say as to Ezra's potential on the world squash scene. He's not looking for any extensive media coverage of Ezra, and doesn't want anyone placing halos around his protege.

Scholarship

As to what makes world champions, Chainani says, "In today's game it depends on who lasts the distance. That's what makes them marginally better than me rest.''

Ezra win, on completion of this season, leave for Harvard. He is the first Indian to be awarded a squash scholarship there. In actual fact, it was granted to him last year but Ezra wanted to play on the world junior circuit for another year. The University granted him a year's deferment. That decision has proved to be the night one. His training at the Stripes with Mohammed Yasin, (Jansher's coach) has helped him immensely.

So far, the going has been good for nun. Adrian Ezra, 18, has just set out on the road to a long career in squash. Maintaining a standard is not going to be easy. But then, winning the national tide at the age of 17 isn't that easy, either.

Lady sings the blues

Indian Express 31/3/1989

BEHIND every great man, they say, there is a woman. The history books give numerous examples of such happenings since the time of Adam and Eve. There have been Solomon and Sheba, Samson and Delilah, Anthony and Cleopatra, Napoleon and Josephine and many others. A case of woman inspiring man to his pinnacle.

But, does the same apply in reverse?  Specially  when  you look at the sporting achievements of the ladies of the land, there's enough evidence to show that their success has been a result of their own doing. Today, one can say that P.T. Usha has had the guidance of Nambiar and more important has had 'a very considerable amount of political support. Without that would she nave achieved or been where she was is a matter of debate.

Our squash queen, Bhuvaneshwan Kumari came up the hard way. She switched from tennis at a time when there was room at the top. But, the results to follow showed that she had made a wise decision. Bhuvaneshwari has won the National title thirteen times in a row. Can you thing of any Indian sportswoman who in her field has achieved as much?

And yet, India's first lady of squash is subjected to the ping-pong battle that always exists in our politbureau. People argue that there is no competition amongst the ladies. Today, it has become a one horse race. The gap between Bhuvaneshwari and the rest reminds me of what Geoff Lewis said when he rode the wonder filly Mill Reef, "Daylight was second".

The politbureau will not tell you that it is their own dog mindedness and lack of fore sight that has hindered the development of ladies squash. Three years ago, Bhuvaneshwari come down to hold a coaching camp for juniors and ladies at the Bombay Gymkhana. It was a sell out. A little organization can help such camps occur again and again. Instead, we have people who love to enjoy their hot seats and eat pan paraag or wear Mickey Mouse shirts.

TODAY in Bombay, there  exist sufficient facilities in the clubs to promote the game amongst the ladies. The power-that-be will tell you about shapes and sizes and where the ladies changing room is but that's about all.

Coming back to Bhuvaneshwari. Here is a prime example of a dedicated sports­woman who has let her racket to do the talking. She has been snubbed by the officials and for the record, was recommended for the Arjuna award only after her eighth national victory. Last year, she won the Kenyan Ladies Open, the first Indian to achieve an international success. Surely, it's time to recognize these achievements.

Backing her all the way have been her father Yashwant Singh, a highly respected tennis administrator, and her brother Yogendra Singh, a former National level squash player. There were no Nambiars or political backing. Instead, it was a hard grind to get to a level where even in the men's event she causes a flutter.

The Indian sportswomen owe their achievements to them selves. They are looked upon as also rans with the men taking the limelight. But can this go on forever? There comes a time when even the champions get fed up with officialdom.

Bhuvaneshwari was livid with the National body last year for their delaying tactics. She let fly and "Operation cover-up" began in great haste. The under water queen, Anita Sood is another who has choice words for the Ganga dins.

From Indian ladies squash and, indeed, any other discipline where the fair sex compete, it can be said that behind any champion there is usually a paanchewing ignorant official. He or she is looking for ways to lower the colors of the ladies.

"Grasshopper", said the wise old man, would you prefer brains and brawn or boobs and beauty?" Master, that is a leading question. I'll have to scratch my brains for an answer."

"Grasshopper, you never had any. You don't know the difference between Oscar Wilde and Kim Wilde. So long as you get a free trip abroad, you couldn't care less if the ladies were cute, cuddly or cockeyed."

It's sad but such is the state of our sport. Where power maniacs and egos matter most. Where favorites are in, real performers have to beg and plead. "Did you know about the rather well built lady who was chosen as chief official of the team?", asked the wise old man, "She was so well stacked that she could win the National Front award.

Jahangir and the looking glass

Indian Express 7/4/1989

"READY for the prosecution, Mr. Khan," "Ready for he defense, Mr. Khan." The Court in question is an all  glass creation which will be the stage for the British. Open Squash Championships. Some three thousand spectators watched last year's final when Jahangir equaled his uncle Hashim's seven British open titles.

Coached by his cousin Rehmat Khan, the world champion is ready for battle. He takes on Jansher who has the services of Mohammed Yasin and the Australian challengers Rodney Martin and Chris Dittmar. The Kangaroos have Geoff Hunt, the eight times champion, to guide them. Also in the tray is Ross Norman, the man who burst the Jahangir bubble three years ago in Toulouse after the Pathan had totted up an unbeaten run of five hundred matches over five and a half years.

The British Open has always been regarded as the Wimbledon of squash. It has progressed from the day of Landsdowne Club to the spectacular Wembley arena. The men who have inscribed their names on the glittering trophy have been out of the ordinary.

The domination of the Khan family since Hashim, Roshan and Azam, in the early fifties, was followed by the magic of the Egyptian Abou Tabyeb. Then there was Jonah Barrington who set off in search of Hashim's record, only to be denied by Mohammed Yasin. The great ambassador of squash, Geoff Hunt, took over the mantle as he thwarted everything thrown at him by the Pathans. And, of course, we have now got Jahangir, with a reasonable case to be regarded as the greatest squash player of all time.

THE history books are filled with the  accounts of the battle royale between Hashim with his unbelievable wizardry pitted  against his younger brother Azam and the outcast cousin Roshan. The Khans brought back, the raptures, mingling the flush of adventure with the finest and most subtle techniques. They kindled ravaging fires of racket skills but scarcely burnt their own fingers lighting them.

After these three musketeers had heralded the dawn of a new era, the rest of the world rose to meet their challenge. Between 1959 and 1981, Taleb, Barrington and Hunt won seventeen titles. The Pathan challenge had been temporarily thwarted. The likes of Moibullah (Jansher's elder brother), Gogi Allaudin, Qamar Zaman, Maqsood Ahmed and Hiddy Jahan were all very much in the frame. Zaman has had the uneviable record of figuring in four British Open finals. He found Hunt in a menacing mood and later was outgunned by Jahangir.

Perhaps, one, can best describe Jahangir in the same words that Cardus used for Mozart, "The perfect balance of two things: perfect form and perfect substance," To use Cardusian prose again and liken the great squash player to the great writer's description of Jack Hobbs," A mistake by ' Jahangir is a sort of disturbance of cosmic orderliness. It is more than a disturbance. It is a solecism in fact, as though a great writer of prose were to fall into an untidy period or actually commit bad grammer."

The game's best known player faces an ordeal by fire. He's been up against it before and the Pathan flag has remained at full mast. The softspoken millionaire has enthralled audiences in all comers of the globe. The challengers will look for dents in his Armour but for seven glorious years at Wembley they've had to play the second fiddle.

The draw has been kind to Jahangir. He has Brett Martin and Ross Norman to contend with whilst Jansher faces a much stiffer test with Rodney Martin and Chris Dittmar in his half.

The past few years have seen a considerable tightening up of the rules and regulations. Foul language, time wasting and gamesmanship have all come under the hammer. The code of conduct is strictly adhered to and fines, suspensions and other penalties enforced. Even Jahangir has been penalized for taking longer than the allowed 60 seconds between games.

"Grasshopper," said the wise old man, "have you watched the British Open?"

"Yes Master. It is always at Wembley. Down the road they have an Indian tandoori restaurant, a mithaiwalla and a paan shop."

"Grasshopper, like every good official, you have your priorities right. Tell me, who do you think will win this year," asked the learned gentleman.

"Genghis Khan, Master. He's very good."

"Grasshopper," concluded the wise old man, "Everything that you know about squash can be written on an ant's kneecap. Genghis was a warrior, Jahangir is the world champion. But that has no meaning as far as you are concerned. 'Maybe, you can be as famous by having an exhibition of all those exotic gillidandas you bought from Wemblly Sports."

   

Calcutta's Grammy Award

Indian Express 21/4/1989
By Raju Chainani

DON'T worry, be happy, that's the clear cut message   from   Chowringee despite the revelation that it's going to cost nineteen lakhs to stage   next   February's   Asian Squash Championships. 

Staggering it may seen but when you take into consideration boarding and lodging for 150 players and officials, for ten days plus organizational expenses it's a realistic estimate.

Since the Asian Championships began almost a decade ago, India as one of the founder members, has been ducking and diving. The 1990 event was accepted and though Bombay politely declined the offer of staging Asia's biggest squash spectacle, Calcutta's polit-bureau were quick to snap up the opportunity.

Raising the funds is going to require a superhuman effort. Already, the construction of the two gallery courts is well under way and early September is earmarked as the inauguration day.

The Calcutta Rackets Club, where the two new courts have been constructed (they are to be known as the Wills Courts), will be the venue for the Asian Championships. Ideally located, in the heart of Chownngee, the club is very close to the Kenil worth Hotel where the players, politicians and chamchas will be housed.

Already, plans have been made to invite Qamar Zaman to play an exhibition match in September. The ageing maestro is still a box-office draw and his racket skills have often been likened to the genuis of Hashim and the late Abou Taleb.

RATHER    strangely,   the powers-that-be in Bombay haven't yet jumped on the band­wagon .    Zaman   can    be    a tremendous help to the talents that exist in the metropolis. Is anyone bold enough to take the cue or do the city's sporting public be left wondering yet again of what could have been? 

There's another interesting point regarding the forth­coming Asian. Today India's top three players Adrian Ezra, Meherwan Daruvala and Darius Pandole are very much part of the Bombay furniture, There's every reason to believe that this trio will spearhead India's challenge in the Asian Championships. So shouldn't they be given every opportunity to train with the likes of Qamar Zaman?

We seem to have developed an expertise in having yes men on committees. People who worry about their own game in the evening and want their photographs in newspapers. Take a close look at  the prize-distribution party snaps and you'll see pictures of people who wouldn't qualify even as the official water-boys. Yet they are prominent with their Monkey brand toothpowder smile.

Right now, with the Asian championship in the final planning stage, there's a lot of tout for the key posts right from "official barber for the tournament" to the "official supplier of chewing gum." Ana the grapevine suggests that some Bombay officials have been, axed because the dates clash with the National Snakes and Ladders Tournament.

"Grasshopper", "said the wise old man, "why have you changed your brand of paan masala."

"I am preparing for Calcutta, Master. It will take me time to get used to the Bengal Special."

"Very interesting, grasshopper. But next you'll be killing us that you're going to buy rasgollas from Aurobindo Road and shoes from Newmarket."

"Master, I am confused. What happened to the old market?"

"Grasshopper, at least you are beautifully, consistently dumb. Newmarket is an integral part of Calcutta just like you are part of the squash furniture. But I don't suppose they teach you these things in your geography classes under the banyan tree."

  
Rasgollas and squash

Indian Express 24/2/1989
By Raju Chainani

IT is a very tangy cocktail. The city with the Garden of Eden is putting up two glass-back squash courts which would make the Calcutta Rocket Club the best complex in the country. With the backing of ITC, who have pumped in Rs. 15 lakhs, the stage is set for the East to take over from the West as the Mecca of Indian Squash.

The new courts will each have a spectator capacity of 240 seats with the side galleries to accommodate the standing audience. The outside construction is ready and the glass-backs have already been shipped. In another three to four months the finishing touches will be put to the squash complex.

The brain trust behind this scheme have been Micky Chinoy (president of the West Bengal Squash Association), D.G. Rajan (vice-president, Calcutta Rackets Club) and Shishir Bajpria (secretary of the Squash Federation of India). Bombayites are quite familiar with D.G. Rajan. In days gone by, he was the secretary of Bombay Gymkhana squash and handled many a volcanic situation, particularly at the Inter-club event. He was also associated in bringing the Maharashtra State event from Deolali to Bombay under flagship pf Hong Kong Bank. The latest feather in his cap is something for everyone in India an squash to be proud of. It's been a splendid team effort by the trio.

Calcutta's reward for building this complex is the Asian Championships, scheduled for February 1990. Harry Nair, secretary of the Asian Federation, has already visited Calcutta to see how preparations are going ahead.

And so, there is a mouth-watering prospect of seeing the likes of Jehangir and Jansher play in India. But that is going to be in Calcutta and not in Bombay. Our politbureau have politely declined the offer of staging the Asian. It cannot be for lack of sponsorship.

Perhaps there is still time to do something about this. Surely, a tournament of this status can be staged at two venues. Since Calcutta has got first run on the event, maybe the Maharashtra Association can offer to hold the initial rounds of the team championships in Bombay. The final can be held in Calcutta.

This would give our locals a chance to see the superstars in action. It means a lot of orga­nisation and an additional plane journey but that is not a big price to pay for, being part of the Asian championships. We can organise the event, Reliance Cup style, so that the two cities get the benefit. And any spon­sor would thereby get double mileage.

THIS is going to be the first ever visit by the cities of Jehangir and Jansher to India. It's something we should capitalize on. So what if we have to eat humble pie and be the bridesmaids. Surely, that is no reason to deny Bombayites a chance to see the world's best. If Calcutta can have Adami, we'll have to settle for Eve.

Let me take this a stage further. Suppose, for arguments sake, the politbureau decides that the organisation part as too much for them to handle and let Calcutta do the honours. We still can hold something like a charity match or have a curtain raiser to the event.

An India-Pakistan encounter would be a sell-out. Suppose we had this in aid of the Prime Minister's Drought Relief Fund and followed it up with a charity ' dinner. Bombayites would see the top stars, the cream of industrialists would meet them and that could open a lot of doors. It's something that the two giants of squash, Mahindra and Mahindra and Sah and Sanghi might wish to ponder on.

Holding a major tournament in two venues is not a novel idea. Some years ago, the opening rounds of the Britain Open were shifted to Birmingham, Leicester and Sheffield. It gave the locals a chance to see Barrington, Hunt, Zaman and other top stars. It helped squash develop in areas outside London.

It, therefore, came as no surprise when ICI decided to hold a Masters Invitation in Edgbaston. Matches would go on into the late hours. People used to come up from London to watch. One can think of at least few occasions when Ananth Nayak and myself caught a packed midnight train back from Edgbaston Priory.

The Asian Championships is only a year away. There's a lot of work to be done and the likes of Chinoy, Rajan and Bajoria are well aware of this. Mean time, my official friend who was educated in the Garden of Eden (and not Eton) as he pronounces it, is all excited about his latest advertising slogan, "ITC, rasgollas and squash. Made for each other".

Little Danielle Comes a long way

The Star  6-10-1989
 

A Little girl who insisted on tagging along with her mother to her twice weekly social squash gatherings at the Southport Country Club has come a long way.

The tiny tot’s name was Danielle Drady. Now, she’s 21 and ranked number five in the world and aiming to take Australia to the top in women’s squash.

But Danielle always remembers mum Prunella who inspired her. The two are inseparable buddies now.

Her mother never pushed her to succeed in the sport.

“Playing to win all the time can destroy a child’s love for a sport. My parents didn’t pressure me, but they supported me when I decided to take it up seriously,” said Danielle who is in Malaysia to watch her companion, world number four Rodney Martin, in action at the Singer World Open.

“The world squash circuit is a tough one with the players hitting the road eight months in a year.

“It is especially difficult for women to be away from home and travel all over the world alone.

“Rodney has made things easier. I used to have mum with me before. Now I have Rodney to advise me and help me face the pressure and disappointment of defeat,” she said.

Danielle said she entered the Queensland Under-12 “just for the fun of it” when she was eleven.

“When I won, it was like, “Wow! Danielle you are the greatest.’ I was now ready to conquer the world.

She decided to take part in the Queensland amateur league, the youngest player in the league.

She won several Sate tournaments and was picked to join the Australian Institute of Sport where  she was coached by Geoff Hunt and Heather McKay.

She was named to the Australian senior women’s squad in 1987 and she turned pro.

“I began as world number 21 in early January and by the end of the playing season in April, I had gone up to 15th,” she said.

Now, she aims for the top. “I have had good games against the top four of Susan Devoy (New Zealand), Martine Le Moignan (Eng), Lisa Opine (Eng) and Liz Irving (Aust).

“I have beaten Sue or  Lisa but I have stretched them to five several time,” she said.

But Danielle need not worry. Age is on her side and if she keeps improving she can be number one soon enough.

“If I don’t succeed I won’t be heartbroken. I will at least know that I had given my dream a shot,” said Danielle who, even in Malaysia, is not taking things easy.

While here, she continues training under coach Mike Johnson.

 

In search of Gold :

Indian Express  17-2-89

What makes you a world champion ? was a question asked to Jahingir Khan.

“To me, it’s the three P’s. P for Pathan, P for player and P for Professional,” was his reply. It amounts to dedication, positive mental attitude and hard work. Indeed, our illustrious neighbours have churned out champions by the dozen whilst we remain in the hangover given to us by the British.

Now the Indian Team has returned from the Asian Junior Squash Championships with a bronze medal. It is the best ever performance by out juniors in this tournament where the top Asian boys compete. This is something for all Indians to be proud of. It’s matter for the administrators of the game to develop on. Why can’t we win a gold medal in the next Championships?

For the record, our team had just five days of training together. They were cleared at he eleventh hour. They reached Bahrain at 2 a.m. on the day of their first match which was at 9 a.m. and yet the boys – Adrian Ezra, A. P. Singh, Akshay Joshi and P. Tiberwl proved their mettle in no uncertain manner.

India were seeded eighth in the team event. They came second in their group, losing only to Pakistan. In the semi-finals, the second-seeded Malaysians proved to be too string. There remained the match with Singapore to decide the bronze and here it was our boys who came through in style.

PERHAPS one ought to mention the preparatory work done by some of the other some of the other teams. Almost all the Middle East countries have employed the services of Pakistani coaches. Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait and Bahrain are prime examples.

The Kuwait team is coached by Fahim Gul, a former world ranked player. The team stayed in a five-star hotel for a month before the tournament.

Some of the Malaysian boys spent four weeks in London. They are under the watchful eye of Chris Foo, who, incidentally, is the chief referee for this year’s World Championships to be held in Kuala Lumpur.

The Pakistanis had the magic man Qamar Zaman to assist them. In terms of stroke playing ability, they could not have cottoned on to anyone better. Alas, only Abdul Rashid kept his record unblemished and played a major part in their success.

Hong Kong had the services of the popular coach Chris Clarke whist Zainal Abidin was in charge of the Singapore squash. For India, sadly, there was no one. And yet, the boys came back with glory.

This Asian Championships showed that the Pakistanis are beatable. The Malaysians came so close to proving that. Even in the individual event, Abdul Rashid (who is ranked at 10 in the Pakistani seniors) had to pull out all stops to beat Chris Chan (Malaysia). The gap between the latter and our champion Adrian Ezra is not very much. Given equal opportunities,  there is absolutely no reason why Adrain cannot become a major force in world squash.

In 1965 Anil Nayar won the Drysdale Cup, the symbol of supremacy in World Junior Squash. Nayar had the services of Yusuf Khan, but, today, Adrian has no such person to guide him. But he was proved with his own hard work that he can get to the top. Now it’s for the powers-that-be to help him in the cause. Surely, there can not be a better time than this to launch a programme to develop Indian squash at the grass roots level.

There is no language that every government understands and that is success. When you prove your  worth, as the Pakistanis have, there is enough backing and sponsors. True, politics and money also play a role but they do so every-where.

The next Asian Championships is two years away. Based on our performance in Bahrain, there should not be a problem (all things being equal) to get government clearance for the team. So, perhaps, we ought to think of how to develop our talent.

The team should be selected well in advance. I’m talking of say 9-12 months before the event. Call six boys to train regularly. We don’t have a Zaman or Zainal in our ranks but we can use the services of our top players. Meherwan Daurwla, Darius Pandole, Raj Manchanda and other have sufficient international experience to train the juniors. We have got to make the best of our own resources.

To ask for foreign coaches now is perhaps, being far fetched. But to train the boys in the best possible manner, even using the services of the Piramal Institue and of other sports medicine specialists, is well within our grasp.

Of course, there is a lost of work to be done in other spheres too like taking the game to the public and bringing up the professionals. In this land of ours, the country of 800 millions, nothing is impossible.

The answer lies in one word Attitude with a capital A. “If I fail,” said Alexender, “Who else shall succeed?” “If I succeed” says our sports official,” it’s because all of you have failed”. And away he went to watch “McKenna’s Gold”.

 

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