The second senior-most squash male player in India after Saurav Ghosal, Harinder Pal Sandhu turned 31 on the last day of March this year. Suddenly, a player who used to be often referred to as 'promising', has turned into a veteran. It seemed just the other day that he had landed in Chennai from Mohali to make the Indian Squash Academy his second home. Years have passed and the lad turned man looks the same, hungry for achievements, eager to be a worthy player for the country and, looking further ahead, a useful motivator at a later point.
If there is one sentence that can describe Sandhu, then it is that he is the most hardworking player around, who, on his day, could take the best to the distance and yes, at times, topple him.
An example is his own senior Ghosal whom he shocked in the 2014 national final to win his one and only crown in the competition. With time, he was expected to become a much stronger player, capable of charting his own path to glory.
A chequered career
But Sandhu's story has been so different because, while nature had given him all the enthusiasm to be a livewire on the court, his body did not quite often listen to his demands. Injuries were his major enemy and nothing can be worse for a budding player. Getting bogged down at crucial moments have dogged his career often even if he keeps fighting for a place on the podium.
Since 2005, when just 16 years, he has been a professional sqauash player. For someone who had decided that squash would be his primary occupation in life, the multitudinous challenges seem a welcome motivation.
He gave his best on the circuit, made the right noise.He has featured in 18 tournament finals and won 11 of them to hold a record, for sometime, alongwith Vikram Malhotra, of winning the highest number of PSA titles by a male player from India. His best ranking on the PSA circuit was 47, which was the fulfillment the dream of coming into the top 50. That was in 2016.
Heart on his sleeve
For someone who could not play regularly on the circuit, it was an effort that deserved commendation. In recent times, his best at home has been a semi-final finish in the National Championship held in Chennai in February. Many had looked forward to seeing him again in the final against Ghosal but Abhishek Pradhan stopped him in the semisl after a gruelling five games.
Sandhu is aware that some of the best years for a serious squash player normally starts post 3,0 even if for a short while.
But this Tamil Nadu player now, is not taking chances. Players and officials in the squash circles know his innate ability to read a game with merit. Many players have gained from his advice, read tips, during matches and that even includes his seniors, both men and women. Perhaps, that is what has goaded him on to take up coaching as an additional qualification. His presence, thus, in the recently held WSF Level 2 coaching course under Michael Khan, renowned Coaching official from Austria, was not a surprise.
“It helps me as a player but the course give me a further insight on the various aspects of play,” he said when asked and also mentioned that wherever he had gone, he had seen when it came to coaching, a basic qualification helps.
Perhaps, that was an indication of his future plans. Surely not a bad idea for someone who has decided squash would be something he would always be associated with.