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Charge of the youth brigade

India have been underachievers in squash in the Commonwealth Games, with nothing to show for their efforts.

other Updated: Sep 10, 2010 01:13 IST
Moonmoon Ghosh

India have been underachievers in squash in the Commonwealth Games, with nothing to show for their efforts. But come October 4, the national contingent will be striving hard to change the scenario when they come up against some of the best names in the world. Guide to Squash

Unlike other sports, squash hasn't seen international stars pull out. Apart from the top-ranked Egyptians, other nations like England, Malaysia and Australia will send their strongest squads.

For India, it will be the charge of the youth brigade. Led by Saurav Ghosal and Joshna Chinappa, the entire contingent will be making its Commonwealth debut. Ritwik Bhattacharya, India's lone face on the pro tour at the start of the decade, had participated in the 2002 Manchester Games, where he made an early exit in the second round. Now, the eager youngsters will have to be at their smashing best to convert medal ambitions into realistic prospects.

The players train at the Indian Squash Academy in Chennai, with regular camps held there under national coach Cyrus Poncha and S. Maniam, consultant coach with Squash Rackets Federation of India (SFRI).

"India has never won a Commonwealth Games medal, we are hoping that we will be able to change the record this year," said Poncha.

This time around, it doesn't sound like a far cry. Twenty-four-year-old Saurav, the top-ranked men's player in the country, has moved up to 26th in the world. All the squad members are ranked among the top 100. Upcoming player Siddharth Suchde is 71st while Harinder Pal Sandhu is 97th.

Among the girls, Dipika Pallikal occupies No. 34, Joshna is a place below, Anaka Alankamony is No. 60 and Surbhi Misra is No. 83. Anwesha Reddy, who will compete in only the singles event, completes the list at No. 86.

Training

Joshna, a relatively senior player at 23, trains in England with Malcolm Willstrop. Presently, she is busy playing a couple of tournaments in Egypt, before she returns to India for the Games.

Explaining her regimen, Joshna said, "I train for five-six hours everyday. I go through on-court sessions, fitness training and gym sessions, including weight training thrice a week.

She follows a healthy diet, even utilising the services of a dietician. "Though I cheat sometime, I try and eat healthy. I have chocolate as well three-four times a week," Joshna said, smiling guiltily.

With youngsters getting more exposure to international squash and with dedicated facilities at their disposal, they train abroad under foreign coaches. Dipika, too, trains in Egypt for eight months under Amir Wagih (a former top 10 player and Egypt's head coach). She trains at his world-famous squash academy in Cairo, devoting four-and-a-half hours everyday.

Welcome to Delhi
The squad will arrive here on September 23 to start training at the Siri Fort Complex. Just 10 days of training at the venue means they could lose out on precious momentum. But the players remain hopeful. Dipika said, "Anything can happen in squash. We can hopefully work out the home advantage to our benefit."