Joshana Chinappa and Kush Kumar: Birds of the same feather
Each match is a learning curve
Easily one of the world’s finest squash players of the present era, Nicol David of Malaysia, ever the humble type, would often say that each match for her remains an education, an occasion to learn more.
Coming from a World No. 1 that would sound strange. But that is what sports is all about, a never ending learning curve towards new frontiers of excellence. If Nicol knows she is good, nay the best in the world, then her aim is to keep ensuring that the talent she is gifted with, remains shining.
As Maj S. Maniam,the Consultant coach of the SRFI and the man who led the renaissance of Indian squash, puts it, “Once a player has strong basics in the sport then the aim should be to be consistent in the performance level backed by a strong self-belief.” True no player, not even a champion, can be infallible. Sport after all is much about chance.
A fairly easy drop may turn a stunning let down or a most difficult pick could end up being a breathtaking winner. Only, a champion player ensures the degree of winning-strokes remains high. Else, we would have had a flood of ‘Nicols’ or ‘Shorbaghys’! For, it is never easy to be on the high always.
Joshana and Kush rely on aggression
Among the top players in India, Joshana Chinappa and Kush Kumar are one of a kind, marked by their similarities in approach. Both are aggressive, can be unbeatable on their day but then can also fade away much against expectations. What they are high is in their self-belief that they are good and each time they enter the court, it would seem they taunt their opponent to beat them!
Their recent journey to Australia provided typical examples of their approach. Each enjoyed winning a title, but both showed that alone did not inspire better times ahead.
Kush didn’t capitalise after Tasmanian Open win
Consider Kush for instance. The former national junior champion, only just into the lanes of the professional circuit, showed the grit to make every match a winning one in the Tasmanian Open in Australia for his maiden PSA title. However in a tighter field in Melbourne in the Victorian Open, he burnt away too fast after promising much. He dislodged the second seed Nasir Iqbal of Pakistan in the very first round and that was no small achievement for only weeks earlier Saurav Ghosal had a tough time putting this Pakistani down.
Just when it seemed Kush was on course for an encore came Steven Finitsis, a senior pro but more importantly one, who like Kush, fights for every point and forced the Indian’s exit. At the much bigger settings of Australian Open, Kush had to come via the qualifying phase and the young man was found wanting there. However all the pluck and flourish ended in the very first round to the experienced eight seeded Rex Hedrick of Australia, who has eight titles under his belt.
A good beginning then proved half done for Kush in Australia but like Nicol, the Indian ace too would do well to take each outing as part of the learning curve. He can only get better from all this experience.
Annie Au was too good for Joshana
Unlike Kush, Joshana is a seasoned player who knows much of the tricks of the trade. Still, it is not often that this champion player comes really good. The Victorian Open gladdened many an Indian heart for the typical Joshana perfomance authoritative from the start. Seeded next to Rachael Grinham (Australia) and Line Hansen (Denmark), Joshana outdid the two.
Though she did not face Rachael, thanks to Christine Nunn (Aus) who beat her in the quarterfinal, the way she made short work of Nunn in the semis identified her as the potential winner. She proved that with another standout show against Line. However a week later on the same courts, Joshana lost the earlier touch. Atleast that was how it looked when she, as sixth seed struggled to get past the twelfth seeded Megan Craig of New Zealand.
The truth came when she was swept aside in the quarters by Annie Au, the champion from Hong Kong and the top seed. Joshana has beaten Annie before but this is a different player now, ranked 11 in the world and 16 rungs above the Indian. Joshna had feared it will be tough against Annie but a straight game loss in just over half an hour seemed a bit too harsh for her talent. Be that as it may, considering that among the Indians in the fray, Joshana and Kush, both products of the Indian Squash Academy, were the only ones to demand attention, they deserved plaudits.
What is more, Indian squash deserve players of such genre who make the sport exciting and at the same time give the assurance that no task is necessarily too tough. It is just the day!