India beats Pakistan to win Gold at Asian Boys Championship

Indian boys beat Pakistan to win gold at Asian Team squash

India win gold at Asian Team Squash

The Indian junior boys team created history when they downed archrivals and defending title holders Pakistan India  2-1 in the 15th Asian Junior Team Championships held in Colombo, Sri Lanka to win this prestigious title for the first time in Indian squash history since the inception of the Asian Championships in 1983.

Ramit Tandon bt Danish Atlas Khan 11/7, 6/11, 11/9, 8/11, 11/9, Abhishek Pradhan lost to Nasir Iqbal 4/11, 7/11, 3/11, Mahesh Mangaonkar bt Sadam Ul Haq11/7, 11/2, 11/6 Read more of this post

Article on Aparajitha Balamurukan

Four years after she first held a squash racquet in her hand, Chennai-based Aparajitha Balamurukan (14) has registered her presence as a player of promise at the state, national and international levels. This energetic youngster has won her second international title in the under-15 category at the Milo All Star International Squash Championship held in Kuala Lumpur from May 22-30. A week later, as if to prove that her international title wasn’t a fluke, she bagged the under-15 girls title at the Penang International Squash Championship concluded on June 1. Read more of this post

Maniam, Munir inducted – Cyrus receives Coach of the Year

Consultant coach for the Squash Rackets Federation of India (SRFI) and also World Squash Federation (WSF) & Asia Squash Federation’s (ASF) director of coaching, former Malaysian national squash coach Major (Rtd) S. Maniam became the first person to be inducted into the Asian Squash Federation’s Hall of Fame. Maniam has been involved in squash since 1976.

“The award was for my contribution to the sport for Asia over the last 20 years. I am absolutely elated. It (coaching) is part and parcel of my job. I am enjoying my job very much and did not expect this (felicitation),” Maniam said. The 56-year-old coach, who once groomed the current world squash champion Nicol David, is based in Chennai and shaping up the Indian squash players.

ASF director of referees Munir Shah of Singapore became the second person to be inducted into the hall of fame during a ceremony held at the Indian Squash Academy in Chennai. National coach Cyrus Poncha received the ASF Coach of the Year award for the brilliant performance of the Indian women’s junior team in 2009 winning 2 bronze medals.

Asian Championships start today

The defending champion in both the men’s and women’s categories, Malaysia has received the top billing in the team event, while India is seeded third. The host will be served by Sourav Ghosal, Siddharth Suchde. Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu and Ritwik Bhattacharaya in the men’s event and by Joshna Chinappa, Dipika Pallikal, Anaka Alankamony and Surbhi Misra in the women’s section. Read more of this post

Full of josh, eager to climb

Making quiet progress has its own recompense. Joshna Chinappa has made more news when she has not progressed half as well as she has in the last three months. She seems to have set her priorities right. A career high ranking of 35 on the WISPA charts has not satisfied the youngster.  She is striving for improvement and is training hard to achieve her primary objective of cracking the top-30 at the earliest. Read more of this post

Squash catches ’em young!

There is innocence toddling in every inch of the ICL Squash Academy, now replete with the gentle bustle and bubbly chirps of 32 tots, who have enrolled for the summer camp.
Some might bloom, some might wither, but they have all made their first gentle strides into the world of squash.
For a whole lot of them, this is their first taste of squash. Neither as popular as cricket nor as glamorous as tennis, squash might not have swayed their fancy.
So the first shot of the course was to get them acquainted with the game. Chief coach Cyrus Poncha’s lecture on basic strokes in squash,which was followed by a video footage of the same, featuring SRFI consultant coach Major Maniam and World No. 1 player Nicol David. “Later, we demonstrated the shots on the court,” explained Poncha.
Read more of this post

Deccan Herald article on Saurav Ghosal

Saurav Ghosal’s life has turned one full circle ever since he moved out of his home town Kolkata and joined the ICL Squash Academy in Chennai.For someone who picked up a racquet at the young age of nine, success came soon. His first major title was the German Open (U-17) in May 2002 and he won the Dutch Open two months later. However, the crowning glory came in the form of the British Open (U-19) title in 2004 and he thereby became the first Indian to claim the title ever since its inception in 1980.
Last week, he added another chapter to his fledgling career by winning the National championship (in Chennai) – his third victory in four years. “Going into the final, I was under a little pressure, considering the fact that I was defending my title. But I relish such challenges. After all, there is no fun without pressure,” said Ghosal, who was in Bangalore on a private visit last week.
Coached by retired Major Maniam and Cyrus Poncha while in Chennai, he currently trains under Malcolm Willstrop in Leeds and he thanks his father Prakash, who heads the Kolkata Racquet Club for having initiated him into the game. Much later, the move from Kolkata to the ICL academy in Chennai with help from India Cements executive director N Ramachandran proved to be a boon.
Ghosal has numerous firsts to his credit, the first Indian to be ranked junior World No one, the first to bag the junior National championship three years in a row and in December 2006, he won the country the first medal in squash in the Doha Asian Games.
The 20-year-old rates his Asian Games bronze medal with high regard and has his reason too. “I am proud of the fact that I could win the country the first medal in squash. Moreover, the Doha bronze earned squash a slot in the Government’s priority list,” recalls Ghosal, who beat compatriot Ritwik Bhattacharya en route to the last four stage before losing to Malaysia’s Ong Ben Hee in the semifinal. And he thinks his rivalry with Ritwik bodes well for the game. “The first time I watched him win the junior championship in Kolkata, I was just a kid. When I went on to beat him in the final of the National championship three years ago, it was a dream come true for me. Our rivalry is good for the game. You need someone to keep yourself on the toes always. Siddarth (whom he beat in the National final last week) is also proving to be a tough competitor.”
Pointing out his premature exit from the World junior championship in 2004 as one of the major disappointments of his career, Ghosal believes the game needs to be promoted more as he thinks it’s a sure bet for an Olympic medal. “We lost out for 2012. But we should make it at least for the 2016 edition,” he said. Despite being known for his swift court movement, Ghosal believes there are certain grey areas in his game which need improvement and he believes the stint with Willstrop would be handy here. “After training under him, I have improved my angular returns and forehands. I am hitting the ball harder now,” said Ghosal, who is enjoying a much needed break before he heads back to Leeds where he is pursuing his graduation his Economics and Management.
And as the current World number 42 gears up for a gruelling season which begins with the CAS International tournament in August in Islamabad, he has his priorities right. “Three years ago, I had set a target for myself – to get into the top 10 by the time the 2010 Commonwealth Games comes. The way I have been playing recently, I think I have come a long way in realising my goal.

Sports star article on SRFI, ICL Squash Academy

The winners at the Chennai Nationals had at some point of time been, or continue to be part of the India Cements Academy. This is a tribute to the Academy’s systematic and scientific training. Ten years can be a short period in history. But for Indian squash much has happened during this time ever since the India Cements Limited Academy was established in Chennai in the late 1990s.

With the setting up of the Academy, one big dream of squash lovers was fulfilled then; now, like any businessman appreciating the returns on his huge investments, N. Ramachandran, the Executive Director of India Cements and Secretary-General of the Sq uash Rackets Federation of India, is a contented man. Especially after seeing the results of the National Championship and the National Doubles Championship, which concluded in Chennai recently. Tamil Nadu swept all the five titles at stake. And what is more, each of the winners had at some point of time been or continues to be part of the Academy. What more can the advocates of systematic and scientific training ask for? Tamil Nadu’s success has been overwhelming and its domination has been envied by others.

It is not that all the trainees at the India Cements Academy belong to Tamil Nadu. Some of them come from Punjab, Rajasthan and Maharashtra, and the shifting of their base has not posed a problem, for their schooling and board and lodge were easily worked out. Ultimately, the refrain is if Saurav Ghosal can come over from Kolkata and become a big success in Chennai, then the others too can do so. All this goes to show what can be achieved with organised training. The success of the India Cements Academy should pave the way for more such facilities in other parts of the country such as Ajmer, Indore, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata, where squash talent traditionally surfaces. With squash getting increasingly accepted at the international level — it is one of the events in the Asian Games and in the next decade or so should enter the Olympics — the sport is bound to evoke greater interest.

Already the Government of India has responded positively to the recent achievements of the nation’s squash players, like Saurav Ghosal winning the bronze medal at the Doha Asian Games, by bringing the sport into the priority list. As a result, squash would command more government funds for players’ training and their foreign trips. However, Ramachandran is not particularly enamoured by this. ‘The Government funds are fine but we will always find our own resources,’ is his motto. He believes, the lesser the procedural hassles — the Government matters are always that — the better it is for both the officials and players to plan well ahead. And surely the SRFI supremo is looking ahead to India making a mark in squash at the New Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010.

What inspires Ramachandran are the performances of Saurav Ghosal, who won his third National title, and Joshna Chinappa, who claimed her seventh title, and her firth in succession. Both the players also have decent world rankings — Saurav is ranked No. 42, while Joshna is 39. Besides, the bright potential of some of the young brigade cannot be discounted, especially Siddarth Suchde, a diligent player fresh from Harvard who is keen to hone his skills.

In the final of the Nationals, Suchde was laid low by Ghosal, but his performance clearly showed that he has the fire in his belly. The way Parth Sharma and Naresh Kumar, both under 20 years, have matured as a doubles pair is another big gain for Indian squash. The duo shocked Ghosal and Harinder Pal Singh for the title. Maj. S. Maniam, the Consultant Coach of SRFI, said at the valedictory function of the Nationals, “It is a good happening. We know we have an established and strong pair ready for the big challenge.” he said.

Joshna remains India’s best bet on the distaff side. She intends training under Malcolm Willstrop, who also coaches Saurav, and the chances are that she will go up in her rankings. Dipika Pallikal, who finished next best to Joshna, is trained by Mohamed Essam Hafizan of Egypt, a former top-30 player. Dipika is still in school and so has age on her side. Playing against a tough rival like Joshna keeps her motivated. A notch or two behind Dipika are Anwesha Reddy, Harita Omprakash, Anaka, Aparajitha, all in school but keen trainees and ready to excel. The Chennai Nationals will also be remembered for Balamurugan’s exploits. The man, who was adopted by the Academy and who rose to become a Level II coach, went on to win his tenth title (professional category) in a row.

New Indian Express article

The last five years have seen India make rapid progress in the international squash arena. Not only has the fortunes of the Indian squashers changed for the better, but also the Squash Racquet Federation of India has been successfully organising national as well as international tournaments. India has been able to produce top-notch players in Saurav Ghosal (PSA ranked 42), Ritwik Bhattacharya (PSA ranked 60), Joshna Chinappa (WISPA ranked 39) and Dipika Pallikal (WISPA ranked 68). Ritwik has six PSA titles to his name, while Saurav has two plus a bronze in Asian Games 2006 at Doha.

And the silver lining, accord ing to national coach Cyrus Poncha, is that most of them have quite a few years to go before they reach the peak age (24 to 27) of a squash player. Saurav and Joshna are 20, while Dipika is just 16. Besides, there is a crop of young back-up players like Harinder Pal Singh, Parth Sharma, Naresh Kumar, Parthiban Ayappan, Ramit Tandon, Paramit Singh, Karan Malik and Ravi Dixit who are waiting in the wings.

In the women’s segment, there is sufficient cushion to Joshna, Dipika, Surbhi Mishra and Anwesha Reddy, thanks mainly to the growing stature of junior players like Anaka Alankamony and Haritha Omprakash. ‘‘It’s not just one or two players hogging the limelight. There is enough depth, potential and quality in them. The gap between these players and the top two is not that yawning. This also ensures there is sufficient competition at the domestic level,” said the consultant coach of Squash Racquets Federation of India Major Maniam.

Another heartening aspect is that the Indian junior team, too, has been making its presence felt in the global stage.‘‘Both the junior boys and girls have been performing remarkably well. We are one of the top eight junior teams in the World and we hope to break into the top three sooner than later,” said Maniam. The lucrative part too has brightened for the squashers. In the last five years, the number of national and international tournaments has doubled, and so has the prize money.

‘‘Tournaments are so galore that players now have the problem of plenty, as to which tournament to go and which not to,” said Cyrus. Consequently, more players are pursuing the game as a viable profession, unlike in the past where the game was a platform for higher studies abroad. Moreover, the game has slowly but steadily expanded its base. ‘‘Players are sprouting from states like Rajasthan, Uttranchal, Haryana and Punjab. This shows that the game is reaching more states and people,” said Maniam. Cyrus seconds Maniam, ‘‘Earlier, there used to be hardly 10 players for the girl’s U-11 school tournaments. Now we get almost 30-40 players for such tournaments.” And the Central government rightly rewarded the game by including it in the priority list of sports.

According to the secretary general of SRFI N Ramachandran, it is a recognition that the Indian squash deserved. ‘‘This means that there will be more funding for players and better opportunities for the federation to improve the facilities of the state associations,” he said. Overall, there have been more ups than downs in the recent years. And it’s a fair bet that the coming years will see a further upswing in the nation’s squash fortunes.

Article in Hindu on the Squash Nationals

It was in the December of 2004 that Chennai last hosted the senior National squash championship – open and doubles – and the 55th edition, which gets underway at the ICL-TNSRA courts on Tuesday, comes at a time when the sport looks transformed with success stories. The Doha Asian Games last year brought India’s first squash medal in the form of Saurav Ghosal’s bronze and now with the Commonwealth Games ahead in New Delhi in 2010 the aspirations are for another medal in front of the home crowd.
“It is a realistic hope,” said N. Ramachandran, Secretary-General, Squash Rackets Federation of India. He attributes it to the systematic training programme that SRFI has been implementing ever since the emergence of the ICL academy here nearly a decade ago.Consistent good shows by Indian juniors in various competitions in Asia has evoked confidence in the squash fraternity, in particular the men who have been behind the Academy’s functioning, Maj. Maniam, SRFI’s consultant coach and Cyrus Poncha, the national coach, that “higher goals are achievable.”

On the eve of the national then Mr. Ramachandran said, “The top seven seeds in the open category are trainees of the ICL academy. There is prize money for the first time – Rs. 75,000 for the men’s winner and Rs. 30,000 for the women’s out of a total prize pool of over Rs. 6 lakhs.”It is not going to be a National where the focus will be on one or two individuals but one which will give an insight into the talent depth in the men’s and women’s sections,” he said.  On paper and in the absence of Ritwik Bhattacharya, who has opted out citing his recent knee surgery, defending champion Saurav Ghosal has the best chance of retaining the title. But, as Mr. Ramachandran put it, “It will not be a cakewalk. There are juniors like Parth Sharma, Naresh and Harinder Pal Singh ready to battle, not to mention Gaurav Nandrajog and Siddarth Suchde,” he said.

Similarly in the women’s section Joshna Chinappa looks set for her seventh title but Deepika Pallikal, Harita Omprakash, Anaka and Anwesha can run her close. The Open competition, the Masters championship and the professional championships will be held from July 17 to 21.The National doubles championship and the inter-State phase will be gone through from July 21 to 26.

The seedings: Men: 1. Saurav Ghosal, 2. Gaurav Nandrajog. Women: 1. Joshna Chinappa, 2. Dipika Pallikal. Professional: 1. Balamurugan 2. Dalip Tripathi. Over 35: 1. Niraj Shigaonkar, 2. Raja Parthasarathy. Over 40: 1. Rohit Thawani, 2. Chetan Ladiwala. Over 50 years: 1. B.I. Singh, 2. Vaman Apte.

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