He’s replaced Ritwick Bhattacharya as Indian Squash’s new poster boy, and Saurav Ghosal is enjoying every bit of the attention. “I was surprised to see a turnout of 1,800 in Delhi during the Commonwealth Games when I took to the court,” he admits. Though he didn’t pick up a medal, he did score an individual bronze and a team bronze at the Asian Games. “And I got plenty of attention in China too, even before I won. I’m a Leo, to grab my attention, a girl has to get my attention first,” he says.
Buzz is that he’s been getting and giving plenty of attention to fellow Squash player, Dipika Pallikal. “We’re close but definitely not a couple,” he’s quick to clarify, adding that he’s hard to please when it comes to his Miss Right. “It could be just a smile, but when I see her, I should go, ‘Wow!’ Looks are important but equally important is that I can have a stimulating conversation with her. I was watching Fatima Bhutto speak about her book, Songs of Blood and Sword, on Barkha’s (Dutt) show and she had me mesmerised.”
Is it important that she play Squash? “I’d prefer if she didn’t, that way I could get away from the game when I’m with her,” says the single, eligible, waiting-to-be-swept-off-his-feet 24-year-old.
Ghosal is in India gearing up for the Punj Lloyd PSA Masters 2010 that starts in Delhi on December 12. With a prize of USD 192,500, it is the world’s second largest event for professional male players and India’s largest ever Squash event. “The world’s best players will be on show and hopefully it will give Squash the boost that winning the 1986 World Cup gave cricket,” he points out, adding that the sport needs a role model, and if he can break into the top, he can be squash’s poster boy.
For Ghosal, first his dad and then Bhattacharya were his role models. “Ritwick was the first professional squash player from India and a pioneer. This was the first time he didn’t make it to the team, either for the CWG or the Asiad, and we really missed him,” sighs Ghosal.
He admits Pallikal’s illness that had him partnering Joshna Chinappa just before the CWG and losing a few close games dimmed their chances of a gold. “It would have been nice to win before a home crowd,” he says. “The good thing is that in four years, Dipika, Joshna, Siddharth (Suchde) and I will be between 23 and 29 and at the peak of our careers.”
Before that however, Ghosal points out that support services need to be brought up to scratch, including having top-level massage experts, physios, doctors and nutritionists on call all the time. “That’s how you win golds and make into the top 10,” he says. “Also, we need to dream big, not stop at just becoming National champs.”
At the moment squash is top priority for Ghosal but he plans to open an academy where he can share his expertise with young talent, may be even coach the national team. “If I make enough money, I could even open a company,” he muses. “You have just one life and there’s loads to do.”