Year 2019 has just slipped into history. As the new year unfolds, what better occasion than now to just look back and feel heartened at the progress of squash in the country. The story of progress has not been something that started overnight but through a gradual and purposeful journey that has been gaining in pace and helping the sport in reaching new highs.
Achievements have been regular in the sport now and surely 2019 had its quota. Nothing has been more heartening than the success at the Asian level. For instance, for the first time in our midst India has two Asian Champions in Sourav Ghosal and Joshna Chinappa - two lseasoned, long-time professionals who continue to excel and bring laurels to the country. Joshna Chinappa in fact had won the senior Asian title in 2018 when the championship was held in India, Chennai to be precise and successfully defended it in Kuala Lumpur this year.
If the seniors set the standards then the juniors did not miss picking up the cue. Exciting talent Veer Chotrani, a quick thinker and more than just an energetic bundle on the court, showed his capability by winning the Asian U-19 title in Macau, adding to a growing list of Indian winners in the squash circuit. Interestingly, this was a rare final that had a true native touch in the sense that it was a contest between two Indians with the runner-up being Yash Fadte, currently considered the best junior in the country.
In December, at the South Asian Games in Kathmandu, Indian sqashers brougth more success. Having won the honours the previous time in Guwahati 3 years ago, the onus was on the Indians to defend their title. India did not have the services of the seniors and it was virtually the next rung of players who took up the challenge and ensured that India returned with pride intact and a bag of medals. India had in Tanvi Khanna a new star to look forward to. She won the individual gold and then anchored India to another in the team event. Indeed the South Asian Games showed India's depth of talent in better light and this augurs well for the future. Progress was not restricted to the young and the seniors, but even veterans did exceedingly well. A few months ago at the Asian Masters Championship, in Hong Kong, Amitpal Kohli (Men's 35-39) and Vikas Nayar (Men's 45-49) winning gold medals. They in the process joined the select band of those who have had the distinction of winning both the national and Asian championship titles.
Needless to say, the Squash Rackets Federation of India (SRFI) has reason to feel elated that things have been falling in place in terms of future planning. Indeed like a sapling that needs careful nursing for its healthy growth finally into a strong tree, squash in India has been getting a similar healthy handling. Of all the measures taken to get the talent supply streamlined, perhaps the most significant one has been the Squash Podium Programme that the federation has put in place with the backing of IT major HCL. This is promising a new era in Indian squash. And the Macau Asian Junior Championship has already set the tone for exciting times ahead.