If there's one individual sport that Pakistan has a proud history in, it's squash. So it's not surprising that Pakistan has made a plea to the World Squash Federation that the world junior men's championships, scheduled for July-August, is moved out of India.
With Indo-Pak relations extremely strained post the Mumbai terror attacks and the Indian cricket team refusing to tour Pakistan, the Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF) is naturally worried about how their players will make the Chennai event.
When HT contacted the Air Force controlled PSF though, they said they hoped a solution was possible. A top-ranking official, who said he could not be quoted, said they were "keeping their fingers crossed". "There is still some time to go, so hopefully, relations will improve and our team will tour India." But he did not deny that they would prefer the event to be moved. He did confirm though that Pakistan had made a request to the Asian Squash Federation (ASF) in December, to move the Asian Juniors out of Chennai, for the same reasons. "ASF officials said it was too late to alter the venue or reschedule the event," he said. Pakistan were to defend both the team and individual titles in the biennial tournament, played from January 16-23.
Interestingly, the only time India hosted the World Juniors --- in Chennai in 2002 --- Pakistan won. S. Maniam, the ASF technical director and India’s consultant coach, said he was not the right person to comment, while WSF president and Squash Racquets Federation of India secretary-general, N. Ramachandran, did not respond to repeated calls.
What has Pakistan worried is the fact that their players are going without competition as Chennai has emerged as the hotspot for squash after Ramachandran took over as WSF president in October.
The World Doubles Championships, scheduled to be held in Chennai in Dec 2008, was postponed after the Mumbai attacks.
The World Junior Championship for men and women is also scheduled for Chennai later this year.