When the best players take the court the rest watch in awe. This was the scene at the Indian Squash Academy courts on May Day when top three Indian players Saurav Ghosal, Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa, along with Harinder Pal Sandhu, came on to play doubles as part of a special camp.
The Academy was bustling with activity with a junior tournament on in addition to several junior-level trials. All of the courts were busy before two courts were rearranged for the doubles session. The four stars — Ghosal (the World No.15), Dipika (No.12), Joshna (No.21) and Sandhu (No.82), all part of the Indian team for Commonwealth Games to be held in July in Glasgow — had taken time off from their busy professional circuit commitments.
SRFI consultant coach S. Maniam and National coach Cyrus Poncha were in attendance too as Dipika and Ghosal played Joshna and Sandhu in a gruelling one-hour match, the final session of the short camp.
For the many junior boys and girls this was a spectacle as the pros put on a show of power, precision and poise.
Maj. Maniam seemed sastisfied with the way the players have shaped up; after all, it was he who has been tuning them up from their junior days, along with Poncha. His watchful eyes were glued to the action as the four went through the grind.
“Considering the quality at the Commonwealth Games, India’s best bet for a medal lies in the doubles,” said Poncha.
According to Maj. Maniam, who is also director-coaching with the World Squash Federation, India has a good chance of a medal in Glasgow because each player has risen in ranking and the confidence levels will be high.
Consequently, he said, the stress will be on the doubles.
“This camp, which got over on Thursday, will be followed by another later this month, and possibly another before the team leaves for the Games,” Maj. Maniam said.
From the seriousness on display, the quartet seemed keen to sharpen coordination in doubles play.
“Winning medals for the country is our primary aim,” said Ghosal, the highest ranked Indian male player.
Dipika spoke of the charm of playing for the country and bringing home laurels, though the sport was not exactly high-paying (“We hardly have any savings.”).
Joshna said more academies like the ISA would do a world of good to broadbase the sport, like in Egypt — the top force in squash — where 90 per cent of those who take to the sport end up being professionals.