Few athletes can be truly philosophical soon after a defeat. And Saurav Ghosal would have been excused as he had hoped to do a bit more to at least grab an honourable mention.
But the first Indian to reach the third round - last 16 - of the Professional Squash Association (PSA) world
championship was satisfied despite losing 6-11, 7-11, 2-11 to World No.1, James Willstrop of England on Tuesday. The tie lasted just 49 minutes but if Ghosal was hurting it didn't show, once he had warmed down and tucked away his emotions with the set of racquets that stuck out of his bag.
Ghosal, the world No. 21, hoped his sparring partner for eight years - the time he has spent training under James' father Malcolm in Leeds - and good friend goes on to win the showpiece event in the pro circuit. "James played those big points extremely well, especially in the second game," Ghosal, 26, said matter-of-factly, explaining that he should make sure the next time he caught James on his off-day. "His ball control is brilliant," he said, indicating that it was really difficult to overcome the gap in levels that the rankings indicate.
The Kolkata-born Ghosal took up squash as an eight-year-old, and moved to the UK thanks to excellent family support, to tap into the structure required to develop. It fetched him the bronze medal at the 2006 Asian Games at the same Doha courts.
He is determined to crack the top 10 - he is already the highest-ranked Indian player ever - but knows it will take a lot. "The last three tournaments, I have run into world numbers 3, 4 and 1," he shrugged, the only satisfaction is that the first two winners went on to claim the title.
What about financial support? "You have to be a top-20 player or thereabouts to earn well from the circuit," he said. But squash isn't up there compared to say tennis or many other games. For example, this is only a $325,000 event. The Chennai Open tennis offers around $400,000.
Ghosal's three-year deal with Punj Lloyd was not renewed due to the economic dip, but he feels the sports ministry should be more proactive while funding top athletes. "Everything is reimbursable with them. Now, if you don't have money, how are you going to pay for it in the first place? I know they are scared some may walk away and not deliver on performances. But they should set targets, and as long as one achieves them, it should be fine even if they pocket some money. You have to trust your best athletes."
Unlike Pakistan in the past and Egypt now, India are still trying to match up to the best in the business. "Our juniors don't have the luxury of seeing the top guys in action," he says. "Tradition is very important."
He hopes to showcase some of his skill in his home club as he heads to Kolkata to defend the title in the nationals starting on December 18.
The writer's trip has been sponsored by the Doha GOALS Forum
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