Kolkata boy Saurav Ghosal was India’s first ever player to have won the British Junior Open U-19 Squash title in England. He is also the first Indian to be ranked No.1 at the junior level, as well as being the first player to have won the junior national championship in three consecutive years.
Having moved to Chennai after finishing school, Ghosal was coached by Major (rtd) Maniam and Cyrus Poncha, which helped form the foundation for his success. Based in Leeds, England now, he trains with Malcolm Willstrop, and this association has seen him reach great heights and achieve tremendous success.
Ghosal became the Indian national champion when he won the National Championships in 2006. Among his other achievements, he won the bronze medal at the Asian Games in Doha in 2006, which was the first time India had won a medal in squash in the tournament. Ghosal was presented the Arjuna Award by the President in 2007.
In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, he talks about his future plans and the things that he has set his sights on.
1.You are the only Indian to achieve a top 25 world ranking in squash; how does that feel?
My highest ranking has been 22, but I don’t think about being the only Indian and stuff like that. I want to focus on getting better, winning matches and getting even higher in the rankings. Of course, it is nice to be creating history but that’s a peripheral thing. The important thing is to work hard and play better everyday.
2. Given that squash is not a very popular game in India, what made you pursue a career in the game?
I took up the game because of my dad. He used to play it quite regularly and that’s how I started playing for fun. Slowly, I realized I was really enjoying it and then one thing led to another. My career began in earnest when I started playing junior national tournaments, and now I’m a full-fledged professional.
3. How difficult has this journey been for you?
My journey thus far has been hard but I’ve definitely enjoyed most of it. There have been disappointing lows along with unbelievable highs. On balance, though, squash has given me a lot and I’m thoroughly indebted to this great sport. Also, my journey isn’t over yet! There’s still some way to go before I can make World no.1 and stay there – that’s my ultimate aim hope.
4. You are currently based in Leeds; are there not enough good facilities in India for you to prepare for competitions in the international squash circuit?
I’ve been in Leeds for almost 8 years now. I have one of the best coaches in the world in Malcolm Willstrop and the World no.1, James Willstrop, is my training partner – that’s a combination that would be tough to get anywhere else! If I had to be a bit more specific, I would say India lacks expertise in support services like physical training, injury prevention, etc. Also, the squash coaches aren’t as good and the fact that we don’t have top quality professionals in the country is a major hindrance.
I have been lucky to be associated with a few corporates over the years and their help has been invaluable for my growth as a squash player. Currently, I’m sponsored by Punj Lloyd who are my main sponsors and have been so for the last 3 years. Veedol has supported me for a number of years now, Nike is my clothing sponsor and I’m really happy to be using a Prince racket!
6. What steps do you think should be taken to make squash more popular in India?
Squash needs to be marketed better in India. For example, when we do have big events in the country, we should put on a really big show. I think this will help attract people who weren’t interested in squash prior to the event. Also, we need to take the game to schools and colleges. That would help the game grow a great deal in my opinion.
7. What are your aims for this year? Which are the important tournaments that are lined up for you?
I want to break into the top 20 really soon and push towards the top 10. In terms of tournaments, I’m playing the British Open next week in London. The World Open at the end of the year is another one I want to do really well in. Other than that, I play every tournament to win matches and enjoy the whole experience.