Article – National Championships

The old order remains intact but fresh talents almost ready for a take over…

Time was not ripe for the old order to change. This much was clear after the senior national proceedings at the squash’s brand new venue in India, the Kerala capital Thiruvananthapuram. Two senior pros Saurav Ghosal and Joshna Chinappa helped themselves to one more title each. Saurav’s tenth title meant he had equalled Narpat Singh’s tally to be joint number one in terms of titles won in the history of squash in India while Joshna is three titles away from beating Bhuvaneswari Kumari’s record of 16.

Having said it must be mentioned that the two seniors must be wondering if the journey ahead would be kind to them. Keen observers of the sport still believe that the days of the two remaining at helm are not over yet, based on the way things panned out in Thiruvananthapuram. But it must be said both Harinder Pal Sandhu and Harshit Kaur, two respective runners up made deep impressions on the two winners. The only difference was the factor ‘experience’. True, Harinder had beaten Saurav in Mumbai for his maiden title in what was part of the winning streak the young Sardar had gone through in 2014.

Much has been written on those historic moments of which he was part of but when it came to the crux as it did this time, Harinder showed he still needed to fine tune certain aspects of his approach to rightfully renew lease of the national title. He fell just when it seemed he had Saurav at his mercy. Leading two games to nil and then conceding a game and still gaining a 6-2 lead in the fourth game, the Chennai lad appeared to get that dream touch. “His aggression and his ability to score winners not to mention his speedy movements, everything made it look as though there was little to choose between him and Saurav,” said national coach Cyrus Poncha without hiding his happiness over his ward’s wonderful progress in his career. And yet Harinder forgot the cardinal principle in a sporting tussle that a win or loss is decided only after the last point is played.

Experience was the key and a hardened pro now, Saurav has been through tough battles to know that all he needed was a single opening. Sure enough he found it to unsettle Harinder and the rest is now history. Not so dramatic was the women’s encounter but Joshna obviously had not bargained for the tough fight that junior champion Harshit produced, even if briefly. But those brief moments brought to fore the possibilities ahead as this Delhi player, who has shifted to Chennai to train at the ISA, is bound to gallop in confidence and experience. Joshna may still have the ammunition required to keep her single-minded goal intact but one thing is sure with the bubbling enthusiasm building around it could be demanding task ahead.

What impressed many in this year’s national championship was the way some of the players waiting to make a breakthrough in the senior ranks exhibited their talent. Velavan Senthilkumar was one and Vijaykumar was another. The left handed Velavan, a product of ISA, is a cool but sound player with strong basics. What came to fore was the way he played to situations, like the way he wore down senior Sandeep Jangra in a show of complete control. Vijaykumar similarly outclassed Gaurav Nandrajog, once a strong force at the national level. Both these young players have given sufficient indications of having come of age and that is good news for Indian squash.

Add to that the continuing rise of Kush Kumar, who has the will to fight and does so admirably. In thiruvananthapuram, Kush grabbed a game off Saurav in the semi-final and this is the first time he is achieving that against a senior professional. There is more to come from this young man who like in his junior days, is keen to take on a dominant role and maybe he would not need to wait too long.

In a way then the sport is now flux with good talents who, and that is significant, will serve the country long. They are young and have come up via a tough competitive programme. The results of this has begun to show and Thiruvananthapuram was but just the beginning.

S.R. Suryanarayan

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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