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Fragile hopes in a glass case

India's hopes for success at the Asian Games in the less popular racquet sport, compared to tennis and badminton, rest on a trio of youngsters, reports Uthra Ganesan.

india Updated: Nov 27, 2006 23:30 IST
Uthra Ganesan
Uthra Ganesan

With a three-member squad for the Asian Games, India look to at least make it to the last four in squash.

India’s hopes in the less popular racquet sport — compared to tennis and badminton — rest on a trio of youngsters. At 27, Ritwik Bhattacharya is the veteran in a squad that also has Sourav Ghosal and Joshana Chinappa, the lone woman representative.

With powerhouses like Malaysia (top women player Nicole David and Md Azlan Iskandar among the men in their ranks) and Pakistan (Mansoor Zaman and Aamir Atlas Khan) in the fray, even making it to the semis may be a hard task.

But, given the fact that both Ritwik and Joshana reached the last eight in 2002, and Sourav having improved by leaps and bounds since then (he crashed out in the opening round in Busan), they could end up causing upsets.

Their on-court performances may not be exactly awe-inspiring but all three can be a handful on their best day. Especially Sourav, who has shown a level of maturity that is rare in a 20-year-old, so much so that he will be our main hope to net a medal.

India’s strength lies in the mind. All three are as tough as they come, with enough self-belief to not just motivate themselves but also one another. Add to that the fact that, being underdogs and sans any pressure, the players can go about their job away from media scrutiny.

That’s what they have been doing so far, practising with their individual coaches in places as far away as Egypt and England.

For the players themselves, it is more about pride. The Games may not hold any importance in terms of prize money or ranking points, but there is no questioning their commitment.

“I think India is the best place to be and as an Indian I am extremely proud of playing under the tricolour,” Sourav said recently. However, it is the off-court happenings that act as a dampener.

Deepika Pallikal was dropped from the squad despite being the runner-up at the national championships and the SRFI secretary N Ramachandran insisting that two men and two women would participate.

Ramachandran now says she is not a medal hope and must improve a lot. With national coach Cyrus Poncha also not on good terms with Joshana, a clash of egos is the only thing one fears at Doha.

First Published: Nov 27, 2006 23:30 IST