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Press Report of Raju Chainani 1987

'Old Fox', wily as ever

28th Jan 1987 Sports week

HE talking point of the  Hong Kong Bank spon sored  Maharshtra  State   Squash   Championships was the defeat of the National Champion Meherwan Daruvala in the semi-finals. Up against the talented Nariit Singh (the Services champion), Daruvala's game went to pieces after two closely fought games. In fact, after he had won the opener comfortably, defeat looked beyond comprehension. It transpired later that Meherwan had been down with flu and was far from match fit. Yet this was a major upset perhaps the biggest of the season.

In the finals, Narjit faced the old fox', Raj Manchanda. The lob drop perfection of the 42-year old Lieutenant Colonel proved too much for the temperamental Ananth Nayak. As has happened so often in the past, Ananth found a major stumbling block in Raj. He hit the tin forty-two times in the four games. Whining the first and then recovering splendidly in the second to lead 6-5, Ananth hit upon his losing streak. In the third and fourth games. Raj kept the ball at a good length and calmly collected the points as his opponent made error after error. No excuses for Ananth. He was taken apart by the sheer alacrity and court craft of Manchanda.

So we came to the all Services final. Bombay's hopes had been badly bruised and shattered. The last time we had two .Army men in the final was over 15 years ago when Maj. K.S. Jain played Capt V.K. Sharma in the Western India final.

Manchanda won the final with a minimum of fuss. It was three straight games, the issue never in doubt. Narjit was outplayed as Manchanda gave, yet another fine display of courtcraft and ball control. Having beaten Narjft of fortnight earlier at the Central India, Manchanda confirmed his status as the best of the Services contingent

Bhuvaneshwari Kumari was far too good for her opponents. Perhaps the only redeeming feature of the ladies event was the splendid victory of Lata Talwar over the second seeded Honey Sherman in the semis. A determined player, Lata has room for considerable improvement The emergence of the Bombay girls, Sonan Sinha and Chitra Kapur, also augurs well for the game. Along with the promising Vanita Bhandari, they still need to put in a lot more hard work to come near Bhuvaneshwari. Still in the top four is the touch-play artist Deepika Chandratreya, a former India number one, albeit 15 years ago.

Rishipal Sethi won the sub-juniors title comfortably. His victim, Rishad Pandole has improved considerably in the last year and will no doubt find himself in the winners, enclosure soon. Rishad's cousin, Jehangir is another younster brimming with potential.

During the last six months, Farokh Pandole has made significant improvement He has beaten his arch rival, Arjun Singh comfortably in their last three meetings. Arjun had a tough encounter with Adrian Ezra in the semis. Just back after a bout of jaundice, Adrian won the first game and very nearly the second. Match practice began to tell thereafter, as a fitter Arjun scrapped through, it might be a different story at the CCI during the Nationals.

The juniors final was a big disappointment Arjun looked jaded and nonplussed. He was a mere shadow of what we had seen at Delhi. Farokh was allowed to look very good indeed. One point needs to be driven home. Pandole is explosive, strokewise and temperwise. He needs to curb his instincts else the referees fund will get generous contributions.

Hong Kong bank have made this tournament a standing order. With its elevation to art all-India ranking; event the Maharshtra eventgains a much earned recognition. The increased prize money (up 30 per cent this year), splendid hospitality and the hard work of Tournament secretary Harish Melwani and Arun Sethi have ensured the success of these championships.

The standard of behavior was a Vast improvement to what one saw. in Delhi a few weeks earlier. With the imposition of monetary penalties, players were held in check. The overall standard of refereeing was good and a difficult job .was made to took relatively easy.

Dawn of a new era

28th Jan 1987 Sports week

THERE was a time, not so long ago, when squash  was associated  with  oranges and lemons. The thought of  it as game was a restricted one. Bombay has led the way to a squash revolution. The glass-court the Masters Tournament, increased prize money and the debut of television cameras have made headlines. Alongside have come coaching camps, the Inter-School inaugural tournament an accent on the development of the game at the grassroots and the debut of Bhuvaneshwari Kumari in the Open event.

CCI took the bull by the horns by constructing the country's first glass-back court. It went through its trials and tribulations, through a stormy strike which brought work to a near stand still and through an inefficient architect. The end product, considering all that happened between 1981 (when the plan was first approved) and October 1986, when Raj Kumar Narpat Singh cut the ribbon, was something to be proud of. The flooring and the glass erection are up to international standards. Naval Pandole's efforts bore fruit after all.

The new court made waves even before it was fully complete. Bombay hosted the Masters Invitation, restricted to the country's top eight players. A staggering Rs. 70,000 was at stake with Rs. 17,500 as the winners purse. Co-sponsored by Mahindra and Mahindra and Sah and Sanghi, the tournament was a tremendous success. For the first time in Indian squash history, the spectators had an armchair view. One could see the expressions of the players, their moments of triumph and tragedy, their games manship and above all have a very close look at their styles of play.

The press came in full force. The front tin had an opening to capture a different view of the players. Packed galleries, at times exceeding two hundred watched the matches. Television cameras picked up the highlights of key matches which were later screened in the local sports round up programme.

Talking of prize money, Bombay alone offers nearly Rs. 150,000 in the three tournaments the Masters, Maharshtra State and Western India. It increases next year as do the tournaments. Calcutta, Delhi, Madras and Indore have also pushed up their stakes, making the squash circuit lucrative, competitive and good fun.

For the first time, the SRFI have come up with a ranking system. Players are now required to compete in five tournaments, This year, entering the Central India became, almost a necessity to pick up ranking points. It gives the organisers a boost as they get the top entries from the country. It also gears them towards hosting a National which has so far been confined to the major cities.

Coaching camps for the juniors have come into the limelight. Raj Manchanda took hold of some boys in Sonawar. Ananth Nayak, Darius Pandole, Cyrus Mehta and Bhuvaneshwari Kumari ran a series of schools for beginners, sub-juniors and ladies. Noticeable from this had been the progress made by youngsters like Rishad Pandole, Daniel Ezra, Rishipal Sethi, Chitra Kapur and others.

The standard of behavior has not improved a lot. The antics of the top players in particular, have left a lot to be desired. One cannot help think of the disgraceful, example they set to juniors. Fortunately, the Code of Conduct, brought into effect from October 86, has made an impact. Severe monetary penalties were imposed in Bombay. In Delhi, one was shocked to hear comments about whether the Code was in force, It would take another six months perhaps, before the effect of these guidelines sink in.

Calcutta has been, the hot seat of Indian squash for the best part of the last decade. Taking over from Anil Nayar, the SRFI was reorganized. In came N.N. Atal as president and Raj Kumar Narpat Singh as his deputy. Both love the game and bit by bit they began a reconstruction. They came through many a battle, kept their heads in political beckerings and did a thankless job gracefully. The time for a change has now arrived and on January 25th, it appears that Maharshtra will take over. Bombay has been the Mecca of Indian Squash and it is fitting that the SRFI comes back here, albeit to a very much more organised SRAM.

And so the show goes on. New ideas, better run tournaments, increased sponsorship and an emerging lot of youngsters augur well for Indian squash. At the top, a new committee takes over. The need for more courts, specially public ones, is at a saturation point The so called "rich mans game" must go to the masses. With umpteen plans in the pipeline, we look forward to a highly progressive 1987. Good judgement is needed to steer a safe course between Scylla of faint heartedness and the Charybdis of the phantom, but there are navigational aids.

Indian squash has gone forwards and backwards in the last decade. Certain people have exploited the situation purposefully, selfishly and for monetary gain. Unfortunately there remained pin-drop silence as situations were allowed to get out of hand. The bubble had to burst sooner or later. When it did the power-that-be were unable to deal with the situation. The buck was passed around. Hopefully, the new faces will not allow such selfish maneuvering to continue.

The need for a proper coach is rather desperate. The club markers have learnt the game the hard way, often rising from ballboys to coaches with limited ability. The younger brigade have the opportunities to come to coaching camps run by the top players. These schools are still a novel concept A lot more needs to be done at this level to ensure that the talents of the teenagers is developed properly. A start has been made in this direction and 1987 is sure to see a great many more coaching camps.

Twenty years ago, Yusuf Khan used to catch Anil Nayar and Fali Madon by the ears and make them sweat it out It paid off as both went to the top with Nayar winning (amongst his many trophies) the junior World title.

We've got the talent today. The interest in the game has increased tremendously. With more money coming in, there is every reason to believe that there will be some significant development all around. I think Indian squash is about to enter a new era.

Juniors Come of Age

By Raju Chainani                                                                            Mid-day 14-12-1987


The packed gallery roared with appreciation. The heir apparent responded. Each point won was greeted with a thunderous ovation. The glass-back squash court revealed the pressures, pain and pleasure. The sponsors enjoyed it too. Squash was in limelight.

ďCímon Adrian, Címon.Ē The pigtails, teeny-boppers and vociferous members of his fan club were there in abundance. The scene was the Western India Open final where the sixteen-year-old was attempting to win the juniors and news titles on the same evening. He pocketed the juniors after some anxious moments with his archrival Farokh Pandole.

Those 65 minutes on court were energy sapping. The relentless power of Pandole made many a dent in the Ezra shield. Yet is was the super fit younger man who proved to be stronger.

After this splendid encounter, Adrain just about went through the motions with Meherwan Daruvala. He had done marvelously to get so far. Narjit was defeated in five games in a match full of artistic strokeplay. That was not enough as Adrain comprehensively beat Ravinder Malik in the semis, never allowing the Services champion any liberties.

There was much to admire about the performance of the Bombay brigde. Darius Surti, written off by many, reached the last eight beating Arun Ganguly, Surti is a dangerous floater in any major tournament. Heís had a good season and his qualifying for the Masters drove home a point to his detractors.

There is a school of thought which suggests that both Chetan Panchal and Dev Malani are better than Surti. Neither played in Delhi and at Bombay they donít do enough to write home about.

Manali is the only unofficial coach on the circuit. He can play good squash but consistency has never been his middle name. He lost in five games to Malik and Kapur. Both matches could have gone the other way. Maybe the nationals will tell another story. Manali is a beautiful mover on court but hasnít made the big time yet.

The juniors has become a two-horse race. The colleagues from Sydenham have drawn clear of the rest. Indeed, it is a long time since Bombay has had such talent at the top. Farokh and Adrain have leapfrogged into the top six in the mews league an achievement to be proud of.

Bhuvaneshwari Kumari remains unsquashable amongst the ladies. The much improved Chitra Kapur the evergreen Deepika Chandratreya and the petite Rehaab Barodawala just couldnít make an impression on the princess. Her exploits into the open event made the headlines. Here too she did enough to trouble the better knows.

The masters Invitation was always going to be a very tough tournament. As Indiaís top eight took the stage, there were already some weary legs after the exploits of the past two weeks. There was enough drama in store.

The powerful Narjit had a week which he would like to forget. He lost a very close match to Farokh Pandole, was outclassed by Manchanda, nearly got done by a rejuvenated Surti and let Malik slip past for an impossible victory. In between he had a cliff-hanger with Adrian Ezra, coming through from an almost hopeless situation.

There was however a match which many who witnessed will not forget. His clash with Daruvala produced squash of a very high quality. Narjit raised his game to a level worthy of a champion. He was glorious in defeat and deservedly the two players got a standing ovation as they left the court.

The old fix, Raj Manchanda, came to the scene as a wounded soldier. He lost tamely to Vikas in the Western India but the Masters had a lot more at stake. Malik managed only three points and Ezra eight. It was a lesion in squash. The precision and control of the maestro against the impulsiveness of the clubs.

Daruvala was too good for him and Farokh Pandole prevailed in a marvelous match which went the full distance. Surti and Narjit were no match for the lieutenant colnel who went on to clinch the second spot behind Meherwan.

The Bombay juniors did remarkably well. Farokh proved to be the better this time despite losing to Daruvala and Ezra. He was like a man possessed as he beat Narjit, Manchanda, Vikas and Malik on successive days, all matches going to five games. Farokh played a mature game mixing his aggressive strke play with some delightful drop shots.

Adrian Ezra too came through with flying colours. He finished fourth, just behind Pandole. It might have been different if he had not allowed Narjit to slip through his fingers. This was his first Masters, his first big test and he passed with honours.

Darius Surti took seventh sport ahead of the veteran Vikas Kapur. The latter had to withdraw on the penultimate day due to the sudden demise of his son.

There was no stopping the star of India, Meherwan Daruvala. He went through the week unbeaten despite a stern test from Narjit and some anxious moments. Yet he proved his fitness, ability and endurance. To return pressure with pressure is the hallmark of a champion.

Mehrewan did this exceptionally well. He played the big points with a sense of maturity. It will take something extra special to knock him off his pedestal.

For the home crowd, albeit a disappointing one compared to last year, the quality of squash was something to know about. The Masters, co-sponsored by Mahindras and Sah and Sanghi, had yet again proved to be a tournament for the very best only. It calls for an extra special player to win the eight-man round-robin. Rs.70,000 was at stake. Mahindras, Sah and Sanghi Meherwan Daruvala were crowned Masters of game.


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