He has many firsts to his credit — Junior National Championship for three consecutive years, first Indian medal winner at the Doha Asian Games, first Indian to win the Junior British Open (Under 19) and first Indian in 2005 to qualify for the main draw of the British Open. Yet, Saurav Ghosal is unfazed by the rising expectations. “Pressure is a privilege for every top sportsman,” he asserts, admitting that he’s disappointed that he didn’t make it to the Top 10 before the Commonwealth Games (CWG): “I’m working really hard on my game and hope to crack it in two years.”
Playing for the Manchester League, Cybex Pontefract, and training with top players like James Willstrop and Lee Beachill, Ghosal admits, has helped. “I’ve learnt from observing the way they hit the ball, their attention to detail and professionalism. Improving one’s game is a constant process, nothing happens overnight. I’m hoping to peak by the time the CWG flags off,” he says.
A movie, X-box and music buff and a self-confessed foodie, Ghosal has no magic mantras. “Before a major championship, I try to stay as calm as possible. When depressed, I hang out with friends, then go back to the squash court,” he says, confiding that the pre-quarter finals loss in the World Juniors in 2005 still hurts.
Like many sportsmen across the country, Ghosal too wishes the infrastructure for squash was better and there was more expertise in support services like sport science and massages.
“There are problems but I hope we come out on top and put up a great show in October,” he says. “Playing in front of a home crowd is always special, the atmosphere is electric, just thinking about it gives me gooseflesh. What can be better than a huge crowd chanting your name! The PSA Masters in Mumbai last year was my first big tournament in India and I really enjoyed it.”
Winning a CWG gold medal is important, both personally as well as for squash in India. “I’ve been training hard and will be
disappointed if I come away empty-handed,” says Ghosal, who’s sad that his idol, Ritwick Bhattacharya, didn’t make it to the CWG team.
“Ritwick has been an inspiration to my generation of players and helped us in different ways over the last decade. His inputs and experience will be missed,” Ghosal sighs. “It is unfortunate that he hasn’t been able to play much over the last year due to injuries. However, we as a team, need to put his absence behind us and move forward to achieve.”
Raise the profile
Awards, he says, are a recognition of one’s achievements, and so he is focussed on winning matches.
Ritwick Bhattacharya is currently on air in Khatron Ke Khiladi 3, but Ghosal for the moment doesn’t want to be distracted with modelling contracts, TV shows or movies. He says, “Squash will always be top priority. We need to raise the profile of sports in India so that some day a movie on squash gets made too.”
A day in his life
8:15 am: Wake-up, look out at
the city, wonder what I’m going to eat for breakfast, and get ready to train
9:30 AM: Breakfast, Special K Oats in honey with cold milk
10:30 am: Training at Pontefract Squash and Leisure Club under Malcolm Willstrop
1:00 pm: Lunch, salad or
sandwich, with a bowl of yogurt
2:00 pm: Sleep for an hour, watch TV
4:00 pm: Physical training in the gym with my trainer Kevin Garlick
6:00 pm: Cook dinner and listen to music
8:00 pm: Dinner, one veg and one non-veg dish with rice or rotis/ baked dish with salad
9:00 pm: Watch TV, shows like
30 Rock, Entourage, 24 and Prison Break, and play FIFA 10 on the X-box
11:00 pm: Goodnight. Look
forward to sleeping like a baby!
A film you can watch again and again?
A song you sing when you have the blues?
‘All izzz well…’
An actress you'd like to serenade?
An actor you’d want to play Saurav on screen?
A recent book that was most inspiring?
Songs Of Blood And Sword by Fatima Bhutto
If not a squash player you’d have been...
An investment banker
Best loved item in your wardrobe?
A pair of Abercrombie & Fitch jeans
You never leave home without your...
Fave sport apart besides squash?
A telly show you never miss...
I miss every show because I travel way too much!
You’re terrified of...
No one knows that Saurav is...
What it takes to become a champion squash player
A good swing, physical endurance, speed and mental strength.
Eat everything in moderation. Proteins during training help rebuild the muscles and carbohydrates during tournaments, give energy. Drinking water and isotonic drinks at regular intervals is a must. Recovery drinks after a hard training session or a tough match help.
The India Squash Academy in Chennai has great courts and many of the top juniors are based there.
One needs to put in three to five hours of quality training everyday, six days a week. Work on accuracy in shot making. Fitness is imperative and stretching keeps the body in shape and protects it from injuries. Strengthening the core in the gym is an integral part of a squash player’s regimen. Training on the bike, rower, stepper and cross trainer is helpful.
The winner of the World Open this year will make about $60,000. The winner of top national tournaments earn between Rs 75,000 to Rs 1,00,000. It’s nowhere close to tennis or golf, but the prize money has improved over the last decade. Sponsors are not easy to rope in as squash doesn’t have a mass following. I’m grateful to Punj Lloyd, Veedol, Prince and Nike for supporting me.
Squash schedule for CWG, Delhi, 2010
Squash (Singles) made its debut on the CWG Programme in Kuala Lumpur 1998. it will feature five events — Singles (Men and Women), Doubles (Men and Women) and Mixed Doubles at the Siri Fort Complex from October 4 to 13.