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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About Cyrus Poncha
I was born and lived in Bombay before moving to Chennai 11 years ago to coach the Indian national squash team....what a journey its been!!

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