Press Articles of Raju Chainani (1993)

    

Mixed Magic

Times of India 5-12-93

THEY are known in the squash world as "the adventurers", Their strokeplay has enthralled audiences all over the world, from the Putura World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur to the Standard Bank arena in Johannesburg, from the castle of Kiel to the Heights Casino in slew York. The magical stroke play of the Martin bro-hers, Brett and Rodney, has become a pan of sports lore.

They have me! seven limes in major events. Rodney's win at the recent Qatar International gives him the edge at 4-3. How long will this last? Only Brett as the answer They were involved in a classic five-game encounter at the World Open in 1989 at Kuala Lumpur, with Brett having the final say.

It was just over two years when they met again, this time in the US Open final. Rodney beat Jahangir in the semis and then accounted for his elder brother, was the first time the brothers ad met in a PSA final and New Yorkers simply loved what they saw. In the end, the champagne bottles came out and the audience rose to toast these two great athletes.

Last year, they met twice, at the World Open at Johannesburg and at the European Open at Kiel. Rodney was two games up and looked set for an early after-noon at the Standard Bank arena. Brett showed his class to win the third and fourth games, both . a 17-15 scoreline. and it need-ed a special effort from Rodney in the decider to win. This quarter-final encounter at Johannesburg probably ranks as their best match to date.

The concert hall at Kiel was exotic venue. The Martin brothers played to their own sym-phony and the squash was a joy watch, a fitting end to the 1992 season. This year, it's been different with Brett winning at the ISPA Super Series finals and then at the Cathy Pacific Unisys Open, the latter giving him his first major title.

When you look at the squash world today, there's a wide variety of playing styles. Jansher and Chris Dittmar have moulded their game on the fitness factor, Peter Marshall uses a double handed stroke. The Martin brothers have their own brand: uninhibited, free-flowing and out of the ordinary. There are limes when the strokes are invented, there are times when words cannot describe the execution of a particular shot and there are times when the opponent thinks the ball is coming as a crosscourt but it ends up somewhere else.

In contemporary squash, only Qamar Zaman played with such finesse. He had Geoff Hunt and Jahangir to contend with. The Martin brothers have also had Jahangir but he has been accompanied by the mean machine, Jansher. They have taken on the Khans, with Rodney in particular enjoying a fair amount of success.

Adelaide seems to be a happy hunting ground for the Australians . Geoff Hunt Qamar

Zaman in the 1977 and 1980 World Open finals, both of which were held in Adelaide. The next II years saw the Aussies finish runners-up on lour occasions. 1991 ended this long. exasperating wait as Rodney Martin beat Jahangir Khan in the World Open finals at Adelaide Entertainment Centre.

Today, Rodney is ranked at number three in the world and Brett is a close fourth. Their mad show has made many a stop around the globe and there's hardly been a dull moment. Now, these two adventurers are headed for Bombay to play in the Mahindra International Challenge. Diwali may be over but for Bombayites, the Martin fireworks are yet to come.

 

Shift in world squash power base

By RAJU CHAINANI   Times of India 10-11-1993

BOMBAY, November 9. THE cancellation of next 1 month's $ 100,000 European Open has come as a big blow to the Professional Squash Association (PSA), the organisers of the international circuit. This event, held in the rather exotic surroundings of the Castle of Kiel's concert hall, was one of the most popular tournaments and had gone from strength to strength. Sadly, German Telecom, the sponsors, pulled out at the eleventh hour and the PSA were left with no option.

The depression in Europe is certainly taking its toll on the squash circuit. Having said that, there is very encouraging news from the other side of the world. Tokyo is to host a major prize money event in November, 1994. The Dubai classic held last month was a success and the PSA have confirmed it for next year's calendar. Another major event has been tied up in Abdu Dhabi and there are distinct possibilities of much more happening in the Gulf.

At last month's annual general meeting of the World Squash Federation, there were some very significant allocations over the next five years. Egypt, Hong Kong and Malaysia have successfully bid for the World Championships. There have been high-level discussions with Thailand, who host the 1998 Asian Games, in which squash has been included as a discipline.

The balance of power in world squash has shifted. Although the PSA operates out of Cardiff, it's tentacles have spread far and wide. There have been a few problems, like the late payment of the prize money at the Brazilian Classic and the sealed court floor at the Singapore Open. But, these have been resolved. Harry Nair, secretary of the Singapore Squash Association, has confirmed that next year's event is on. The Asians have been quick to respond to the need of the hour. Hong Kong have acquired a new all-glass court. It was a gift from the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club. The $ 100,000 present was immediately put to use at this year's Cathay Pacific Unisys Open in August. It is also available for hire at around $ 15,000 for a week. It is this court that we may see in Bombay in December, if the big prize-money event comes through.

There have also been major .developments in Malaysia. They have embarked on a fifteen-million-dollar programme spanned over the next four years as their build-up for the 1998 Commonwealth Games. For squash, fifteen million dollars is a staggering sum but the Malaysians have been able to bring it about, thanks to private enterprise.

In 1989 Malaysia hosted the men's World Championships Chris Dittmar beat Jahangir Khan in an epic semi-final and very nearly put it across Jansher Khan in the final. The on-court action was superb and so too was the hospitality. It didn't quite end there because the Malaysians bid for more big events and kept up a very high level of expertise. The World junior women's championships were hosted by them in July this year. In January, they have the Asian seniors event and there's more to follow.

Hopefully, as far as a major PSA event is concerned, India will break its duck this year and add strength to the shifting power base. If Malaysia and Hong Kong can do it, why can't we? Like Bob Dylan suggested in his famous song, "The answers my friend, are blowing in the wind". No more need to be said.

Even when it comes to staging an Asian championship, we have had many a wild experience. Like the tournament t-shirts disappearing. How can one forget the prize distribution where the quality of the medals were such that they fell off the hooks. Or the extra large size tracksuits given to the Indian ladies team who were politely told that it was the latest designer wear!!

As far as Indian squash is concerned, it has sadly been a case of "So little done for so many by so few". Maybe, like the unseasonal rain, we could see things change. Maybe we shall take a tip or two from Suzy Wong. We have the talent, we have the need and we have the masters at making a mess. The grapevine suggests that the SRF1 President is going to take the bull by the horns. Hopefully he will and things will change. But the thought of it, Indian squash without any tamashas, does sound rather boring, doesn't it?

 

Squash juniors need help

By Raju Chainani ( The times of India 11-7-1993 )

BOMBAY, July 10.

DURING the last couple of months, Yusuf Khan and Satinder Pal Bajwa, coaches of international repute, have had some of our top players training with them. For these two gurus, there has been an immense satisfaction. They have a great, affection for India and are keen to help Indian squash. For them, this is just the beginning and a lot more can be achieved in the days to come.

Initially, there was a guarded reaction from the Squash Rackets Federation of India, the parent body, over the Non-Resident Indian Squash Association's junior development programme. However, Shishir Bajoria, the SRFI secretary, has met Anil Nayar, the NRISA president, in Bombay and New York and as a result, certain grey areas were sorted out.

The overall responsibility of the game in the country lies with the SRFI. What the NR1 body had done was to take the top juniors in the under-14 and under-19 category and put them under Yusuf's care, If anything, this should be construed as a positive sign and being solely directed at helping the juniors.

The proof of the pudding is there for the pubic to see. Shondip Ghosh, the National under- 14 champion and Rohan Bhappu, the number two in this age-group, have returned as better and much stronger players. Five times national champion, Meherwan Daruvala, was pleasantly surprised by Bhappu's progress. At the CCI courts, Ghosh is seen to be playing much better after his stint at Seattle.

The two boys have to be nurtured. It is from them that we can expect to win laurels. They have quite a few good years of squash ahead and, given the opportunity, should come up trumps.

The key word is opportunity. The top juniors in India today all come from Bombay. Apart from Ghosh and Bhappu, both under-14, the Asthana twins, Vinay and Vineet, are not yet 17. Paul Fererria, the current under-19 champion, graduates into the senior ranks this year. He has already made his mark, having finished runner-up in the Patel Masters last October. Rishad Billimoria, who has been to Seattle along with Paul, is very highly thought of and should do well this year. They have had some exposure, but what happens now?

The NRJSA has the services of Ananth Nayak, the former Indian international. But, there is an immediate requirement for the juniors to have courts for regular practice, even if it be at off-peak hours. The state association should play a key role here. There has to be a systematic approach whereby the juniors can play together. It makes a big difference and is even more beneficial from the coaching point of view. Else, the whole momentum of the coaching the boys have had with Yusuf would be lost.

Today, no city or state can boast of the depth and quality of junior talent that presently exists in Bombay. Think about it. And, if you add to the impressive list of juniors the names of national champions, Adrian Ezra (men), Misha Grewal (women) and Chandrakant Pawar (professionals), Bombay's stranglehold on Indian squash becomes even more evident. It's time something was done for them, perhaps by way of recognition as well.

A positive approach will go a long way in assisting the juniors. There is no earthly reason why they should be made to suffer. Bombay squash has the launching pad and something good can be achieved if all concerned with the sport work towards a common goal.

 

Junior squash players to be coached in U.S.

Times of India  2-4-1993.

THREE Indian teenaged squash players would undergo a month-long intensive coaching stint under renowned coach Yusuf Khan in the United States in May-June this year as part of the three-year junior development programme of the non-resident Indian Squash Association.

The New York-based body, formed just over a year back with former National champion Anil Nayar as its president, would sponsor the coaching stint of Shondip Ghosh, the National undcr-14 champion, and the National under-19 champion and the runner-up, respectively, Paul Ferreira and Rishad Billimoria, at the downtown Seattle Club, which has excellent facilities.

Nayar told reporters here yester day that some other juniors would be added to the list later based on their performance and commitment to improve the standard of Indian squash which, he said, had already shown marked progress recently when the under-19 squash finished runners-up to strong Pakistan at the Asian juniors championship in Singapore.

The NRISA has also reached an understanding with another well-known coach, Satinder Bajwa, who would come down to India three or four limes a year to provide training to top Indian juniors, who would be given regular coaching by Ananth Nayak and Fali Madon.

In addition, coach Nayak has been sponsored by the NRISA to go to Vancouver in Canada to undergo level-two coaching course, which lays emphasis on the psychological and physiological aspects of the game. He would also be in Seattle when the juniors train under Yusuf Khan,

The NRISA would also assist in kitting the juniors who would participate in major juniors and seniors events in India as part of the programme, Nayak added.

Arjan goes down tamely

By Raju Chainani (Mid-day 31-8-1993) 

SINGAPORE, August 31 ASIAN hopes in the 24th Anchor Beer Singapore Open now lie solely with the four Pakistani players in the main draw of the mens event. This became evident after the Indian number two, Arjan Singh, lost to Gamal El Amir (Egypt) 15-13, 8-15, 15-9 15-13. He had to win this match to become one of eight qualifiers. Arjan seemed intent on trying to break the ball. There wasn't much by way of variety against an opponent who is known to be rather flam-buoyant. 

Arjan led 12-8 in the opener and somehow managed to lose it. He came back strongly to level and surprisingly played some very loose squash to give the Egyptian the third game. The six foot plus Sikh was always playing second fiddle in the fourth game and lost on a debatable penalty point. He had earlier beaten Singapore's Ernest Tan 15-6, 13-15, 11-15, 15-6, 15-6. 

The other Indian who tried his luck was Akshay Joshi. He has recently been training with Satinder Pal Bajwa (Jansher's coach) but had no answer to Australia's Byron Davis as he went out 15-11, 15-3, 15-10. Malaysia's Jay Lim was beaten by Daniel Sharpin (New Zealand) 15-12, 15-6, 8-15, 15-9.

Asian ladies champion, Mah Li Lian (Singapore) tries her luck in the womens qualifying round today. India's Misha Grewal, ranked 39 in the world, has a direct entry into the main draw. She meets Danielle Martin (Australia), the number five seed.

Surprisingly, Malaysia have no player in the qualifying ladies event. Singapore have six entries. They also fielded 22 players for the mens qualifying but nobody made the grade.

Ernest Tan came close as did another real character of the game, Zainal Abidin, who had surprised everybody by almost managing to qualify at Hong Kong.

Today the main event gets under way. Jansher has had a work out today- He appeared very calm and relaxed. In fact he had come to sec his colleagues play in the qualifying rounds. Along with him, Mir Zaman Gul, Zarak and Zubair Jahan Khan are in the main draw.

The Glass Court

Times of India 5-12-93  

Indian spectators will watch international stars in action inside a portable "fishbowl" court at the Mahindra International Squash Challenge next week. Misha Grewal reports on how the new court will change the face of Indian squash.

INDIA was one of the founders of the International Squash Rackets Federation (ISRF); yet today the country scarcely figures on the world professional circuit. That may soon change as it gets set to host the Marinara International Squash Challenge tournament in Bombay next week.

Promoted by ProComm Sports Pvt. Ltd.. the Marinara Challenge will bring world-class squash to India for the first time, with eight top players battling it out for a total prize money of US $ 55000..

The five-day tournament, slated to begin on December 13 at the Bombay Gymkhana Club, is expected to attract close to 3.000 spectators each day. They will see a variety of world-famous playing techniques: the fabled shot -making ability of Brett Martin (world number four), the four double-handed backhand used so effectively by Peter Martin (world number five), the incredible stroke play that won Rodney Martin (world number three) the world championships in 1991 and the perseverance that earned Chris Dittmar (world number two) the reputation for being the most intelligent squash player.

The other participants are Rodney Eyles, Ross Norman, Philip Whitlock, and Chris Walker world numbers six through nine respectively.

The game will be played on the portable Twin Vue court. Twin Vue courts or "fishbowls", as they are often referred to by the pros. are the latest addition to the game, aimed at revolutionizing squash and making it truly a spectator sport.

They are also tough. According to Gordon Hirst managing director and partner of Prospec, the world's largest squash court manufacturing company and sapling the glass at 6 feet 4 inches above the ground to shatter the walls of this court." Hirst was in Bombay recently to finalise arrangements for the match.

The court's walls are transparent in one direction only. So the players are not disturbed by the spectators.

The glass-back court was pioneered by Ellis Pearson back in 1969. In 1977 Prospec International took over and developed the Ellis Pearson system. Over the next decade and a half. Prospec's glass-back wall went through a process of rigorous testing. Today it is the only glasswall court recognised by the ISRF for its safety and performance standards.

Constructed of a glass-hack wall and acrylic side walls, the portable court weighs five tonnes, inclusive of the light and ceiling fixtures and the floor It takes a mere 48 hours to install. The walls are transparent, but only in one direction, allowing spectators to watch the game without the players seeing them.

In order to achieve this oneway effect, a thin plastic sheet, on which are superimposed minuscule black and while dots, is stuck onto the acrylic walls of the portable court. Specially made lights reflect off the white dots, enabling the players inside to see a solid playing surface. The black dots on the outside give the spectator a clear, unimpeded view of the game, as there-are no external light sources.

This revolutionary court offers camera angles never achieved before, and comfortable seating arrangements for spectators, as opposed to the cramped viewing galleries of the past. All these have contributed immensely to the game's popularity over the past decade.

Soon, the first Indian squash court construction company, Zyrex Corporation, an associate of Prospec International, will begin to build squash courts in India as per ISRF standards, a big step in the promotion of squash in a country like India, according to Hirst. Top-class facilities will eventually replace ancient squash courts, and with their improved safety standards they will soon be host to more international tournaments. Hirst emphasises that India needs exposure to world-level squash, and Indian players need 10 appear on the international circuit once again.

Hirst feels it is a great pity that India has only two or three players on the international circuit. "There is great potential for development of squash in India," he says. "This tournament is the perfect opportunity to launch a revival."

But progress can only be achieved once the need for a long-term investment is recognised. And who knows,' Maybe India will once again figure

INDIANS LOSE TIE, WIN FRIENDS

By Raju Chainani ( Mid-day 5-2-1993 )

SINGAPORE, February 5 PAKISTAN AVENGED last Sunday s defeat as they beat India 3-0 to retain their stranglehold on the Asian Junior Squash Championships. It was a highly disciplined performance by them against an Indian side that played its heart out. Rishad Billimoria had a great chance to take a two games lead against Kumail Mahmood in the opener. Had that happened, the pressure would have been on the Pakistani who till then, had been comprehensively outplayed.

Billimoria made seven unforced errors in this second game. A backbreaking rally, over a hundred strokes, saw him put a forehand boast into the tin. This gave Mahmood the second game. He had trailed by a game and was 1-5 down before the revival began. One had to feel for Billimoria. He had given it everything and yesterday's hard semi-final was taking its toll. Mahmood won 2-9, 9-7, 9-2, 9-2 after sixty-four minutes.

Pakistan had dropped Imtiaz Khan, their number one player, from their team. Asghar Khan soon vindicated coach Gogi Allaudin's decision to do so as he beat Paul Ferreria 9-4, 9-4, 9-5 in 37 minutes.

Akbar Khan had a relatively easy time in the first and second games against Vineet Asthana. A brief flutter by the Indian saw him catch up at 5-5 in the second game, having trailed 0-4 and 1-5. Akbar led 6-0 in the third and it looked all over. The Indian hadn't given up. He took advantage of some careless play by the Pakistani and a penalty stroke gave him this third game. There was hardly any resistance from Asthana in the fourth and he managed just one point 9-5, 9-5, 7-9, 9-1 to Akbar after 43 minutes.Coach Ananth Nayak felt that Pakistan were the better side on the day. "It would be incorrect to make any excuses. This was a pressure match and they handled the situation better," he suggested.

The Indians had come here with just two weeks preparation, that too being interrupted by the disturbance in Bombay. They have earned the respect of the teams here and have shown that Pakistan can be beaten. 

Boys bronze medal play-off: Malaysia beat Hong Kong 3-0. 

Girls  round  robin:   Malaysia beat Hong Kong 2-1 to win the title.

The lucky ones

Mid-day  6-4-1993

PAUL FERRE1RA (National under-19 champion), Rrishad Billimoria (National under-19 runner-up) and Shondip Ghosh (National order-14 champion) are Seattle-bound next month. They are to train with Yusuf Khan, the former CCI professional.

This is part of a three-year junior development programme that has been put together by the Non-Resident Indian Squash Association (NRISA). Ananth Nayak, who coached the Indian juniors during the last two years, will also make the trip and during his stay be is to do a Level two coaching course.

Anil Nayar, the NRISA president, suggested that the current, lot of juniors needed encouragement. "They are very talented and I have seen a lot of progress in then- play. There are areas which need to be worked on and this is why we opted for them to train with Yusuf," he said. The NRISA has also reached an agreement with Satinder Bajwa ( Khan's coach) whereby he will  come down to Bombay three or four times a year.

"There has to be continuity in the training," said Nayar. "Our objectives are very dear and we would like to assist the boys in every way. We have launched a global appeal and are confident that our scheme will be acceptable to people who have the interest of the game heart."

Nayar revealed that be had received a far from the SRFI asking for his assistance. "As long as there is a dear-cut understanding, I see no reason why the SRFI and the NRISA cannot work together. I would like to make it very dear that the NRISA is a non-political body and our objectives are dearly defined," suggested Nayar.

For the Indian juniors, this could herald the dawn of a new era. The soft-spoken Nayar hasn't minced his words. It's very much like the squash he played in his heydays. It was aimed at winning or very simply, to be the best.

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