Saurav Ghosal is all set for the Australian Open, his first tournament after a four-month break caused by a freak injury
He says he has a sweet tooth. That he has spent the entire duration of an injury lay-off tucking into his sinful favourites. Looks, however, fail to corroborate Saurav Ghosal's confessions of calorific intemperance. Speaking before practice at the Indian Squash Academy, the World No.26 looks gaunt, the high court lights bouncing off his face, accentuating the high cheekbones.
A rather twiggy Joshna Chinappa walks past and shrugs comically. Saurav shrugs back in acknowledgment. He continues to wait for his hitting partner, fellow squash player Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu, who is supposedly around but nowhere to be seen.
Saurav has just about recovered from what his coach calls a ‘freak' injury. The 24-year-old ripped delicate tissues in the foot (portions of the plantar fascia and a minor tendon, to be precise) during the semifinal of the Irish Open in April, and was out of action for four months.
In Chennai, en route to the Australian Open — his first competitive tournament since recuperating — Saurav appears to have made peace with his lot, despite having had to hobble about on crutches for over three weeks. He considers himself lucky that he did not have too many points to defend during the period and unlucky that he might have broken into the top 20 had the injurious interruption not cost him the semifinal.
“I was leading 2-0 and 7-4 when I felt the tear in my foot. My opponent (Egyptian Tarek Momen) went on to win the tournament. Had I won the event, I'd have broken into the top 20. But it's all right, at least I got to spend some time watching movies and just chilling in Bangalore with my mother and sister. I also got a chance to work on an enterprise that I'm partnering Siddharth (Suchde) in,” he says.
With the denouement of Ritwik Bhatacharya, Saurav is now the elder statesman of Indian squash, both in terms of ranking and experience. The two, along with Joshna and Dipika Pallikal, formed a rather successful first wave of emerging Indian talent. Although he considers the new crop equally gifted, the 25-year-old warns that the transition from the junior level to the professional tour can be brutally disappointing. For those clawing to maintain themselves in the upper half of the rankings, the movement of a single place, Saurav says, requires phenomenal effort, as also heaps of luck.
“Ramit Tandon (Asian under-19 finalist in 2011) has the best hands I've seen. Mahesh Mangaonkar (British Open under-15 champ in 2009) is very good. The junior girls too are doing well in team championships. But it's a totally different world when you turn professional. Even once you've come to terms with the circuit it's hard to move ahead after reaching a certain level. One has to keep working on one's game, be consistent, and hope for the best, and even that might not be enough,” he says.
A group of youngsters hover around, seeking his permission to hit centre court while our chit-chat continues, and are granted it. Saurav shifts in his seat looking for signs of Harinder Pal — who is still missing — and his clingy Adidas dry-fit slides over a tautened frame, which brings us back to his unlikely fondness for food.
“In England (where he lives and trains), I end a hard day's training by cooking dinner. I find that relaxing.” Perhaps what makes it even more relaxing is good metabolism rather than taste.