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

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World Junior Women Day 2

DAY 2 – DIPIKA & ANAKA IN THE QUARTERFINALS

Dipika Pallikal and Anaka Alankamony from India joined 4 Egyptians and 2 girls from USA in the quarterfinals at the World Junior Women’s Individual Squash Championships in Cologne, Germany. This is the first time ever 2 Indians will feature in the quarterfinals at the World Championship. Read more of this post

World Junior Women’s, Cologne, Germany 25-29 June ’10

DAY 1 – DIPIKA & ANAKA ADVANCE TO TOP 16
Dipika Pallikal and Anaka Alankamony moved into the round of 16 at the World Junior Women’s Individual Squash Championships in Cologne, Germany. Dipika disposed off Katie Tutrone from the USA with ease while Anaka had to work for her straight sets victory against Ashley Tidman from France. Dipika is up against Salmy Hany from Egypt tomorrow, who had defeated Dipika early this year at the British Junior Open. Anaka is slotted to play Columbian Catalina Pealez  in her next round.
It was a mixed day for the Indian contingent as Aparajitha Balamurukan & Anwesha Reddy lost to higher ranked opponents. Read more of this post

Women’s World Junior Squash Championships 2010, Cologne

Click here for the latest news on the Women’s World Junior Squash Championships 2010 which is from  25 June  to 29 June  in Cologne, Germany. Dipika Pallikal  seeded #2, Anaka Alkamony #8, Aparajitha B & Anwesha Reddy make up the  Indian team. At the last championship India finished 3rd

Anaka u-15 Asian Junior champ

Anaka Alankamony bagged India’s lone gold medal at the Asian Junior Squash Championship, while both Dipika Pallikal and Mahesh Mangaonkar settled for silver after losing their respective finals in the tournament which concluded in Busan, Korea. Anaka, the top seeded, beat Hong Kong’s Ho Ka Po 9-6, 9-6, 9-5 in the girls under-15 category final to clinch her eighth international title. Read more of this post

Malaysian Junior Open 2008

Aparajitha Balamurukan (Gu15) & Kush Kumar (Bu13) win the Malaysian Junior Open 2008.

Ravi Dixit (Bu17) – 2nd position, Anwesha Reddy – 3rd position (Gu17), Roshan Kumarakannan (Bu11) – 4th position.

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.

Squash declared a priority sport by govt

The Ministry for Youth Affairs and Sports revised its categorization of sports disciplines in the country and has made squash one of the priority sports in the country. This comes in a wake of India achieving its first medal in the 2006, Asian Games held in Doha and Indian players like Saurav Ghosal and Ritwik Bhattacharya reigning the top 50 list of best players in the world.

Says N.Ramachandran, Secretary General, Squash Rackets Federation of India, “Its truly fabulous that Indian Squash is getting its much deserved recognition. This means a better funding from the government and increased opportunities for the federation to improve the infrastructural facilities of the state associations. The federation is keen to harness the talent of these junior players by giving them exposure to all international tournaments”

Cyrus Poncha National Coach, SRFI “This means motivation for all the aspirant squash players and a better scope of sincere participation to bring the sport to the forefront of Indian sports”.

Other than the men, the sport has also witnessed a steep rise in the participation figures in the women’s category. Apart from Joshna Chinnappa there are junior players like Dipika Pallikal, Anwesha Reddy, Aparajitha Balamurukan, Saumya Karki, Anaka Alankamony, Harita Omprakash etc.  Anaka and Saumya were the semi finalists at the British Open held last year.

Coach of the Gold Medal Women’s Team at the SAF Games, 2004 and Gold Medal Asian Junior Women’s Team in Pakistan 2003, Cyrus explains the situation “There used to be days when matches were cancelled for no participation of women. But the situation is definitely improving now with new possibilities in the current women’s junior team.” The boys who are turning out to be safer bets include Harinderpal Singh, A. Parthiban, Naresh Kumar and Parth Sharma climbing higher in the recent world rankings.

Articles in the newspapers

German Junior Squash Open

Ten promising Indian junior squash players are taking part in the German Junior Open being held from May 4 to 6. In the boys category those participating include Yash Bhansali (U-13), Aditya Jagtap, Adesh Bhansali and Ramit Tandon (U-15), Karan Malik (U-17) and Sujat Barua (U-19). The girls team include Anaka Alankamony (U-13), Aparajitha Balamurukan (U-15), Harita Omprakash and Anwesha Reddy (U-17). Anaka, Aditya, Ramit, Aparajitha, Harita and Anwesha had a good outing on Day1

“Ramit and Aparajitha, who were also the runner-up in the same event held last year, are quite confident this time too,” coach Cyrus Poncha said. “India’s performance in the junior circuit last year was evident with Indians winning the U-13 category. Our experiment with success continues this year too with more promising junior players headed for this championship”.

The Week article on budding juniors

In another part of Chennai, three young girls are busy on the court at the ICL Squash Academy. One of them has a board examination the next day and the other two have homework to finish, but the thwack of the racquet has pulled them to the court for an hour. A tired lot they might be, but these youngsters have a clear focus on why they are sweating it out. They are all in the sport to win, and win big. “When you start is an important factor in sport,” says national squash coach Cyrus Poncha. “It gives you an edge over competitors.”

One of his students at the academy, Anaka Alankamony, is realising the benefits of starting early. Though she started with tennis, she shifted to squash during a summer camp and bagged major titles recently. Cyrus foresees Anaka playing with experts like Saurav Ghoshal. “Anaka is a fighter, very determined in the court,” says Cyrus. That determination saw her finish third in the British Junior Squash Open at Sheffield in January. Squash has always been tagged as elitist, but players call it cost-effective. Being an indoor sport, it can be played round the year and is not affected by climatic changes. “Racquet and shoes together might cost about Rs 5,000. But, one cannot guarantee longevity of the racquet as it can get damaged if it hits the wall,” says Cyrus.

The logistics has worked out perfectly well in Anaka’s case. A student of class eight, she spends most of her pocket money and time on squash. “I practice for at least an hour every day,” she says. Staying in Chennai is a big advantage for her and other squash enthusiasts like Harita Omprakash, 16, and Aprajitha Balamurukan, 14. “Chennai is the hub of squash infrastructure,” says N. Ramachandran, secretary-general, Squash Racquet Federation of India. “Tamil Nadu is undoubtedly first in the national squash scene. Youngsters keen to master squash come here because of the infrastructure.”
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