The Indian men’s squash team dished out a dominating performance to notch up a commanding 3-0 win over Finland and enter the pre-quarterfinals of the world team championship in Mulhouse, France.
After the tight escape against Argentina, the eighth-seeded Indian team made the bold choice of bringing in Ramit Tandon in place of Harinder Pal Sandhu. The gamble paid rich off as Tandon tamed the dangerous Henrik Mustonen in the opening encounter to set India on course for a straight-game win and top Pool H.
The 22-year old Mustonen was heavy favourite going into the match, given his 36th world ranking, a whopping 196 places higher than Tandon.
Tandon showed no fear and went for the jugular, volleying brilliantly to give Mustonen the run around. The Indian wrapped up the first game quickly as a shell-shocked Mustonen tried to figure out what hit him.
Tandon continued his attacking style, going for his volleys and backhand drops, to torment the Finnish No. 2.
Mustonen found some hope in the third game as Tandon lost the edge a little. With the match ball in sight, Tandon got a case of the nerves and kept the ball in play instead of going for the kill. The Finn took advantage of that little window of doubt to snatch the third game.
But, Tandon put on display snap volleys to the front and backhand drops that was just out of reach of an exasperated Mustonen to settle the issue 3-1.
Monday’s hero Mahesh Mangaonkar was next on court and proved too powerful for Matias Tuomi. Mahesh stamped his authority early on and never let go the advantage.
Mahesh unleashed his powerful strokes, smashing some hard balls across the court and romped home in style, winning 11-4, 11-7, 11-7 to seal the win and a last-16 spot for the Indians, leaving Saurav Ghosal to play out a dead rubber.
With the match decided, Ghosal and Olli Tuominen would have been forgiven for playing out a dull match.
But, the seasoned professionals were locked in a high-quality battle that was good value for money.
World No. 20 Ghosal played his usual high-intensity game using his youthful exuberance to tease and torment the ‘Flying Finn’, at 34 very much an elder statesman on the pro-tour.
The Leeds-based Indian continued the aggressive game employed by his teammates and combined his precision which proved too hard for the Finland No. 1.
Ghosal raced away with the first two games with his volleys proving difficult to get to for the ‘Flying Finn’ but Tuominen used his wealth of experience to stage a comeback in the third game.
Tuominen carried his revival into the fourth game, but Ghosal was far too seasoned to let an opportunity slip and closed the game at 11-9.
“I am very delighted with the results. I am proud of how they performed today and am looking forward to the match against Venezuela,” a jubilant coach Cyrus Poncha said.
“Ramit was a class act, Mahesh was solid and Saurav was simply superb. Overall it was a solid team effort,” he added.
The results: India bt Finland 3-0 (Ramit Tandon bt Henrik Mustonen 11-4, 11-6, 11-13, 11-4; Mahesh Mangaonkar bt Matias Tuomi 11-4, 11-7, 11-7; Saurav Ghosal bt Olli Tuominen 11-7, 11-2, 7-11, 11-9).