Hindustan Times interview

National coach Cyrus Poncha has been at the job for a while and he’s seen quite a bit. Especially the muck that flew around after he was conferred the Dronacharya Award last year. In an interview with HT at the PSA Otters Open, Poncha offers his side of the allegations and also touches upon other issues, including the preparation for the South Asian Games.
How did the Chennai camp for the South Asian games go? Things are pretty well. We have lots of player coming in. The competition is close, more so among junior boys. We’ve seen that in the Otters Open.
What are your expectations from the Games at Colombo? In women’s category, we’re definitely looking at winning the gold. In men’s, silver is a realistic target, with top Pakistani players present there.
Joshna Chinappa had earlier said her game improved after she started training under you. But when you received the Dronacharya Award last year, she refuted having ever trained with you. What made her do this?
I don’t want to get into this all over again. It’s finished one year ago and I don’t want to get into it. (Please click to see my name as her coach on the WISPA website)
The award also created a lot of resentment in the squash fraternity. Why? Only two or three people, who were jealous, resented it. The rest in the fraternity were very happy that squash got the award. So it’s not the entire squash fraternity; it’s just a handful of jealous people.
Why are you considered this black sheep in the squash fraternity? Not true. Like I said, it’s just a few people who’re jealous. The rest don’t waste time doing such things. It’s only these few who want to pull squash down. In India we have this crab culture. People want to pull down anyone who’s doing well. They can continue doing that; we’ll carry on with our job.
How would you defend yourself against these allegations? Results. Please check the results in the last five years and what has happened before. And if anyone has done any better than me, let them stand up rather than talk.
How do you rate yourself as a coach? I prefer people telling me how I am as a coach. The results should speak for themselves in the national and international circuit.
If you could pick some of these results to show you’ve been good as a coach, which would these be? Undoubtedly, Saurav Ghosal winning the junior British Open, which is one of my greatest achievements. That apart, we twice finished fifth and this year we were sixth in the in the boys’ world juniors championship. Our best achievement in girls’ category has been a fourth place finish. Ten years ago we were not even in the top ten.
Captain Jamshed Appoo, who’d sponsored the Herald Maritime Open said this about you: “Poncha and his association has for the last three years tried to sabotage my tournament without success and Indian squash would do well without him.” I’d like to clear the situation. Captain Jamshed Appoo is an absolute well-wisher of squash. He has the game’s interest at heart. He’s made all these allegations because he’s been misinformed. I’m sure if he can sit down with me sometime and if he’s told what the correct situation is, he would see things in a different way.
Squash is becoming increasingly popular in India. How do you see things, say, five years from now? Definitely the game’s improving here, becoming popular. We still hope more people will support the game to provide more exposure so we can develop it a lot more.

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About Cyrus Poncha
I was born and lived in Bombay before moving to Chennai in 2001 to coach the Indian national squash team....what a journey its been!!

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