Cyrus Poncha, on his return from the South East Asia (SEA) Games in Singapore, where he had the responsibility as the Asian Squash Federation Technical Delegate to ensure that the squash events went off on a smooth note, said that the Games were a "satisfying experience”. Squash, in fact, had returned to the SEA Games after a gap of eight years.
In a way, it was one more recognition for this Indian official, who is a member of both – the Asian Squash Federation (ASF) and the World Squash Federation (WSF) Championship committees and is the national coach for squash in India. Laurels do not come easy, but thanks to the way squash has soared in India in recent times in the light of the wonderful show put up in the Commonwealth and Asian Games in 2014, the squash players and officials too have been in focus.
The Dhronacharya award winner in 2005, Cyrus was awarded the ASF ‘coach of the year’ for team events taking into account his support role in India’s gold medal success in Incheon Asiad 2014. It is a measure of his growing stature that, in 2014 he had two international assignments that broke new grounds for him as a squash official. The first was in Hong kong as the WSF Technical Delegate for the World Masters event and then for the Asian Beach Games later in Phuket in Thailand, where the conduct of squash was his responsibility.
The difference with the latest in Singapore, as he explained, was “more responsibility”. Being the only Indian official in the Games, Cyrus said it helped that he had a set of good and efficient people around him. On the face of it, it was not easy with three competitions – Individual, team event and jumbo doubles – to be conducted.
“But everything went off well without the slightest hindrance,” he said, reflecting the confidence reposed on him by the ASF.
The participants from the five nations – Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia and Philipines – cannot be said to be top draw players. Malaysia, in fact, is a squash power house, but sent only its back up players for this regional meet. “Yet what was striking was the competitive spirit,” said Cyrus, who also threw light on the big moment of the host nation, Singapore.
“It was the jumbo doubles competition, which made its debut in this edition. This is an extension of the normal doubles except that the court dimensions provided for a bigger length with the normal width. Singapore saw its chance and played its best to strike gold, the country’s first medal in squash in over two decades,” he said.
The Indian national coach also had an interesting fact to give in Singapore’s gold medal win. “Vivian Rhamanan and his partner Phua were the jumbo doubles winner. Now this Rhamanan has a small link with the Indian Squash Academy. In early 2000, he had undergone three months training here,” he said.
With over 4,300 sports persons from 11 nations competing in 36 disciplines, the SEA Games is one of the biggest multi-discipline games in the region and this is another feather in Poncha's cap.