“Joshna and Dipika will rise to the top five,” says Indian Squash's consultant coach Achraf El Karurgui
After a quick use of the towel to mop up the sweat, he walks out pensively to who else but Achraf el Karurgui, the Consultant Coach from Egypt attached to the Indian Squash Academy. The Egyptian was patiently uncoiling the self- doubts in the young man and giving him tips about where he could do better. But there was a clear indication from the Coach that he had liked what he had seen of Veer.
The Mumbai youngster is no exception, most players who happen to be in the proximity of the Egyptian expert would make it a point to seek him out and discuss their game with him. That way Achraf is a happy man. Not because he keeps getting consulted but from the way Indian young talents seek help to improve what they are doing in squash.
“It is too early to say if India can catch up with Egypt. It is possible, but it will take time,” he quipped when enquired about the progress India had made. Having been in India for over a year now, Achraf was happy that the sport was catching up, was on the right lines but he agreed there was a lot of fine-tuning to be done.
“For instance, we had in fact made some changes in the Schools coaching programme in the ISA by trying to concentrate on the Seven years and eight years aged boys and girls for the U-11 category. We have identified around 10 boys and 5 girls who had shown promise. I feel the future lies in this category,” he said while stating that the young talent can then be moulded into desired lines.
“When I look to the seniors, you have Joshna, Dipika, Saurav, Mahesh, Vikram - just a handful to count,” he said, adding that the numbers should be much more. “If you take Egypt you will see out of the top 100, there were would be at least 20 or so women and 30 and odd men.”
Egypt has a system which was well established. Achraf talked of the strong league there, strong tournaments on a regular scale to keep the talents on their toes. Each category abounded in new and newer talents and that added to competition to catch the eye.
The sport was popular, next to the highly placed football he said tongue-in-cheek. But that was the situation, Squash also had a good support. The good then followed from there. He said many countries have been seeking information on the Egyptian model that churns out quality squash players.
On what had given him the greatest satisfaction, coaching in India so far, the experienced Egyptian said, “The presence of players like Joshna and Dipika. I am not exaggerating but I am confident that these two will rise to the top five in the world. They have the potential to be there.”
In the US now with these two players for the ensuing prestigious US Open, Achraf said this new practice that the SRFI had approved, of a Coach accompanying top players to tournaments, was a very healthy one.
“Players need mental support and even top players too. There are times they can get confused on the court and that is when a Coach can provide the tips to change course. It has happened to the best player,” he added while strongly advocating the presence of a Coach with players in tournaments.