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Vol. XXIX No. 3, May 16-31, 2019

A double delight in Asian squash

by S.R. Suryanarayan

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The 5th of May, 2019 will ever remain a red letter day in the history of squash in India, thanks to two players who represent Tamil Nadu at the national level. Joshna Chinappa and Saurav Ghosal are two of India’s brightest stars in the field of squash and what they together achieved in Malaysia in the Asian Squash Championship is an unprecedented first, something any country would be proud of. Joshna won or shall we say retained the Asian women’s singles title she had won two years ago when the championship was held in Chennai and Saurav by winning his maiden men’s singles title, became the first Indian male player to achieve that. Two Asian champions at one edition is a rare double delight in any sport, not just squash.

What makes it heartening is that both these rich talents had their upbringing in squash in Chennai at the Indian Squash Academy. They were among the first bunch of children with an aptitude for this sport who had had the benefit of the structured training and coaching at this centre, a brainchild of Mr. N. Ramachandran, who was the then Secretary-General of the Squash Rackets Federation of India and a key functionary of the State Association as well. It was his vision that squash talents should not suffer for want of a good facility that set the motion for this world class academy to take shape. Two decades hence, this Institution nay a landmark in the City with fame crossing the borders of India already has an array of achievements of its pupils to exhibit with a sense of pride. The latest can easily be considered rare jewels on the crown.

Both Joshna and Saurav had a different journey on the path to excellence. Born and brought up in Chennai, Joshna’s initial dabbling with the sport began at the MCC where his father Anjan Chinappa is a member and a regular player. Attracted to the court as a toddler, she retained the passion until opportunity came on a platter to her in the form of the Academy. The rest is history. While Saurav, a lad from Kolkata came along with his squash-loving family out of curiosity, the settings floored them so to say. The end result was that Saurav made Chennai his second home, had his school education side by side squash training. Those who frequented the academy in early 2000, would never miss this young land with boundless energy. In many ways he was a delight to Maj. S. Maniam, the Malaysian Coaching expert and his team at the Academy and as many predicted then, Saurav not only made a mark but continues to demand attention as rich talent always do. Both these players of course have their own experts to guide them now but the start was here.

Their progress is the biggest inspiration to the country’s ever-growing talent pool in tune with the rising popularity of the sport. Already a medal-winning sport for India in major championships, including the Asian Games, Joshna and Saurav by their outstanding success have given Indian squash a further boost. And their work is not complete. Both are today the highest ranked Indians in the professional circuit, Saurav in the top 10 and Joshna is at 15. They are certain to touch more milestones in the seasons ahead. As Mr Ramachandran said when the ISA was established, “it is my dream to see an Indian emerge as a World champion one day from this Academy”. May be that day is not too far away.

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