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Press Reports of Raju Chainani.


Politics-ridden squash

Sports week  06-06-1976                                                                             By Sunil Chainani

DESPITE   a   record   entry   from eleven nations, the fifth World Amateur Squash Championship was a scene of political controversies eventually leading to a boycott by Egyptian, Kuwaiti, Pakistani and Indian players the reason being the participation of "Southern African" players.

The team event, held in Birmingham and the Midlands, went off smoothly. Except for the sudden departure of  the Nigerian team apparently caused by troubles at home there were no other incidents. The teams were divided into two groups with Great Britain, Pakistan. Kuwait, Canada, Mexico and New Zealand in Group A and Australia, Sweden. Egypt, USA, Nigeria and India in Group B. The' event was played on a round-robin basis with the two top teams in each group qualifying for the semis.

Great Britain provided the first sensation by convincingly beating Pakistan 3-0. They went through their group unbeaten and qualified along with Pakistan, In the order group, the Australians had a bit of a scare from both Egypt and New Zeeland, winning both ties by two matches to one.

In the semis, Pakistan surprised the powerful Australian team, winning all three matches. The most significant result was the defeat of Kevin Shawcross. the favourite for the individual title, by Mohammed Saleem. The left handed Pakistani left his opponent standing on several occasions with a superb display of power, precision and skill. The Pakistanis, however. lost to Great Britain and eventually Great Britain needed to win only one match against Australia to win the title, which they duly did.

The performance of the Indian team was fairly satisfactory. We finished seventh, heating Kuwait, Canada and the USA. Three of our players were on the international scent for the first time Nick Senapati, Capt. Manchanda and Soli Colah while the captain, Fali Madon, was on his third trip abroad. On balance it must be said that we were beaten more by the superior fitness of our opponents than by stroke play.

India's participation in this tournament had only been approved after receipt of a cable from the organisers, stating: "South African team not participating in championships." On arrival it was learnt that the South Africans were playing in the warm-up event at Stockton and also in the World Championships. As such we withdrew at Stockton. The organisers however were appreciative of the reasons behind our "boycott" and arranged friendly matches to enable us to get acclimatised. After the warm-up event it was learnt that the South Africans were not playing in the team event.

Having won the team event, British hopes of winning the individual title were very high. Philip Ayton and Stuart Courtney were seeded No. 2 and 4 with the burly Australian Kevin Shawcross occupying the No. I spot and Dave Scott (South Africa) being the other seed. The individual event was played at the Wembley Squash Centre a superbly maintained complex with a glass back centre court which has a capacity for over 250 spectators.

The teams arrived in London on Friday, 12th May and it wasn't long before politics became the key point of discussion It was fairly obvious that with the inclusion of the South African players in the draw, there was going to be trouble. At the end of the day, the decision arrived at by the Pakistani, Kuwaiti, Egyptian and Indian players obviously following orders from their High Commissions was that they would not play if they came up against a South African player in any round of the tournament.

Two of our stalwarts, Fali Madon and Nikhil Senapati, had to drop out as a result of having been drawn against Greg Stainer and lan Holding (No. 7 seed) in the first round. Stainer, in fact, went through to the third round without playing a match as his second opponent, Atlas Khan (Pak) also withdrew for similar reasons. Nasser Abdullah and G. Awad (Egypt) and Maqsood Ahmed (Pak) were others who didn't play the South Africans.

It was a pity that a tournament of such high prestige should have been ruined by politics. After Birmingham, a lot was said about the chances of G. Awad. In fact, he was expected to go very close to winning the title but that was not to be.

The Indian challenge in the individual event didn't last beyond the first round. Apart from the four who played in the team event, Ali Ispahani and this writer also participated. Capt. Manchanda was beaten by Briggs (USA), while Soli Colah went out to John Leslie (GB) after coming very close to winning the second game. The power of Len Keppel (Australia) proved too much for Ali Ispahani who was troubled by a pulled hamstring. The Swede, Lars Kvant, who had created a minor sensation in the last British Open, came out a convincing winner against yours truly in the opening match of the tournament on the centre court. Fali Madon and Nick Senapati had, as mentioned, been political casualties.

In the quarters, the 21-year-old South African university student, lan Holding, convincingly beat Philip Ayton, 9-1, 9-3, 5-9, 9-6. Holding's superior fitness and his tremendous retrieving power proved to be too much for the bespectacled Ayton. In the other quarter the No. 1 seed, Kevin Shawcross, easily disposed of Barbour (New Zealand), while his fellow countryman, the grey haired Mike Donneley came through after a slow start to defeat Brownlee (New Zealand). Dave Scott (South Africa) who had reached the last eight, courtesy of Maqsood Ahmed (Pak), went through to the semis beating Len Keppel (Australia). Scott's control and cool headedness won him the match which was quite evenly balanced though the score of 9-4, 9-7, 9-4 might not suggest it.

Shawcross cruised through his semi with Donneley, winning in straight games. In the other semi, Scott came from behind to win against lan Holding.

Not surprisingly, Shawcross was a strong favourite for the individual title. Many expected the final to be a tame affair but Dave Scott had other ideas. In the end, Shawcross did win, but only just having to come back from a 2-5 deficit in the third game to win that and lead by two games to one.


In quest of squash honours

Sports week  04-04-1976                                                             By Sunil Chainani

FOR the first time since 1971, an Indian squash team will be going abroad to participate in international tournaments. A five member contingentfour players, Capt. Manchanda, Fali Madon, Nikhilesh Senapati and Soli Colah and a manager, Admiral Batra will be leaving soon to participate in the Hashim Khan Open tournament in Karachi, from where they will proceed to England for the World Cup Amateur championships. 

India are among the 12 teams invited for the Karachi tournament (8th to 22nd April), which has been sponsored by Pakistan International Airlines to honour the great Pakistani maestro, Hashim Khan, who is considered to be the greatest player of all time, having won the British Open  now the World Open seven times. 

In the team event, India will take on Canada in the qualifying round with the winner playing Pakistan's crack professional outfit. Though all the top Australian pros will be taking part in the individual events, Australia have withdrawn from the team events, thus installing the hosts as firm favourites to clinch the team title. The Pakistanis, however, may not have it all their own way in the individual events, for their top stars, Mohibullah Khan, Qamar Zaman, Gogi Allaudin will have to contend with World Open champion Geoff Hunt (Australia).

The Indians will have to go through two qualifying rounds to enter the tournament proper and even if they do so, they will come up against the seeded players.

From Pakistan, the team will go over to England for the World Cup Amateur (1st to 24th May). Preceding the main tournament will be a warm-up one where the Indians will be seen in action. The team events will be held from 1st to 8th May at Birmingham and the individual events will be played at the Wembley courts, the most famous squash centre in the world. Playing on the glass backed courts might prove to be a handicap for the Indians, for nothing of the kind is to be found in India.

The team was selected after a play-off tournament in Bombay in which all the country's leading stars took part. Since then, the members have been put through a coaching stint under national champion Anil Nayyar whose absence (for business reasons) will be sorely felt. Nayyar had no illusions about India's prospects in the forthcoming tourneys. "It will be very tough, especially in Pakistan, where our purely amateur team will face tough professional opposition. In the Amateur Open in England, it should be easier, although some of their top amateurs are in fact "whole-time" players. However, there is a little doubt that irrespective of the results, the players will return much richer for the experience."

FALI MADON (30) is the most experienced member of this team, having participated in some major tourneys in England in 1965 and represented India at the Worlds in Australia in 1967. Has been National runner-up on several occasions.

NIKHILESH SENAPATI (20), a Bombay University student, won the national junior title in 1973. Has been national runner-up for the last two years.

SOU COLAH (21), another Bombay Varsity student, is a youngster of enormous promise who moves quickly and hits very hard.

CAPT. MANCHANDA (31), the only Services man in the squad, is a cool and crafty player, known best for his superb drop shots. Has been Services champion several times and a national semi-finalist.

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