Exhibition of India's squash future at the Indian Squash Academy
Players sweated it out on the court
It was another sizzling hot day in Chennai. With the summer at its peak, there was little relief for the denizens from the oppressive weather. At the inner courts of the Indian Squash Academy, there was comfort of air conditioning but there was heat of a welcome kind, thanks to the action behind the glassback.
The national junior trials were on and players from 11 to 19 years in five age categories were fighting it out for the top eight places, the first requirement needed before the final selection. The stakes are high. Getting selected would mean assuring oneself of a chance to represent the country in the immediate Asian junior individual championship in Iran in August and the World juniors in Netherlands in July/ August.
So while there is room for a slip, no boy or girl would want to perform anything less than his or her best. This was reflected in the screams and screeches that emanated from the courts as action was virtually non-stop.
In this midst there are those who can be categorized as exceptions from this sweat-dripping exercise, like Harshit Kaur Jawanda, the reigning national U-19 champion, Megha Bhatia,the reigning national U-13 championa and Tushar Shahani, the current national U-15 champion. And yet this did not make Harishit keep away from the scene.
In a ready-to-move-into-court attire, Harishit with ears plugged was herself soaking in the pressure of the competition. Such is her passion for the sport. In fact this Delhi girl, who is soon to leave school and seek college education, has decided to shift base to Chennai and come under the umbrella of the ISA. What that meant was furthering her career in the most ideal settings. The ISA training should hone her skills for sure and added to that open up opportunities for her to branch out to professional play with guidance as the key factor.
Anaka surprised by the level of play
Nodding her approval to Harishita’s decision was none other than Anaka Alankamony, the earlier U-19 national champion and now an accomplished and proud representative of India. Two times Asian junior champion Anaka, who studies in the USA was in the city on vacation and as is her wont, was quick to spend time at the Academy. More so now, when the juniors, the future stars of the country, were displaying their skills.
“I was amazed seeing some of the U-13 and U-15 matches. I mean could I have played so well in my time in that age was what struck me. They looked so good. This is certainly encouraging,” she said.
Anaka who had earlier gone through with the refresher programme at the WSF certified coaching course held a few days at the Academy, said she was keen to remain attached with the sport at all times. “For now playing in the professional circuit is my main priority but well, I have not thought much on what I will do say years from now. But I wish to remain attached,” said the gutsy player and one of the star products of the ISA.
Chennai centre is easily accessible
“Competition is certainly high,” admits Manish Chotrani, the former national champion who was keenly following the matches. Manish’s son had already completed his schedule and he was happy that the youngster had fared well. A business man, Manish tries to find time to travel along with this son though it was not possible always. Equally keen was the mother of the Adik brothers Aryaman and Advait.
“I had put my children into squash wanting them to go through a sound fitness regime. Competitive spirit came in and where ever they go for matches, I try to be there,” she said, ever smiling. “I am tense inside but try not to show it,” she said with a good laugh. Joining the conversation was the coach of the boys Avinash Bhavnani who is attached to the Otters club in Mumbai.
Bhavnani said it was not easy for a squash player in Mumbai to stick to a good training programme because of the distances involved. “Children had to spend good time in commuting to and fro and then the expenses. All that is not easy,” he said, even though he admitted some of the good talent in the sport used to emerge from this metropolis. This was where, he said, Chennai had a big advantage now thanks to the ISA.
Centrally located it helped children from young age to undergo a systematic programme. Bhavnani yearned for such a facility in Mumbai but is it realistically possible there, he wondered. “Land costs at central locations like Prabha Devi can be prohibitive,” he said while stating that clubs, where the courts are, have been quite understanding to the squash players needs. May be there will be a way out in the long run, feels Bhavnani as he keeps his focus on his wards.