THE SQUASH Racquet Federation of India (SRFI) is yet to wake up to the fact that squash has become a ‘priority’ sport in the country. In yet another example of their arbitrary style of functioning, all norms of trials and selection were thrown to the wind to accommodate certain players so that they could participate in the Qatar Junior Open from March 14 to 18.
All four players in the U-15 team — Sajid Hussain, Roshan Kanna, Deepak Mishra and Kush Kumar — participated in the tournament despite the fact that there are more than a dozen better players in the country. National coach Cyrus Poncha, when contacted said, it was an invitational tournament and individual players foot their own bill. “There was no need for trials or selection as it was an invitational tournament. The players who wanted to participate approached us and we simply assisted them,” said Poncha. “There wasn’t any team event in the championships,” he added. But contrary to Poncha’s comments, India also participated in the team category where it finished fifth, higher only to Qatar who finished last.
Also, the country’s top age group players didn’t even have an idea about the dates of the tournament and were not apprised by the national coach. Surprisingly, exactly four players ‘applied’ and all of them were automatically selected to represent the country. What also defies logic is the fact that Pakistan sent its best juniors like Farhan Zaman and Nasir Iqbal among others and they won all the four individual age-group titles in the Under-19, U-17, U-15 and U-13 categories as also the team championships. In fact, the Indian team lost 3-0 to Pakistan in the U-15 category with Sajid being thrashed by Pak’s Nasir Iqbal 9-0, 9-0, 9-0.
The irony doesn’t end here. Sajid was India’s ‘top seed’ for the Qatar event. But back home in India, he was a reserve in the Delhi inter-state u-15 team in 2007 and lost in the third round at the junior nationals in Ajmer. If the SRFI says it didn’t select the team, then who gave Sajid the top seeding?
In the individual championships, he finished a poor 10th out of 12 competitors, while Roshan Kanna, the national u-11 runner-up, came 7th. India can boast of a strong field in the u-15 category, with the likes of national champion Mahesh Mangonkar, runner-up Abhishek Pradhan, Akash Bornwankar (4th position) and the likes and still they chose Sajid Hussain and Roshan Kanna?
The government guidelines say: “For proposal at ‘no cost to government’, the selection procedures as laid down in the guidelines must be followed.” In this case, probably all norms seems to have been flouted.