"At this level of competition, I have no time to rest": Interview with Indian squash ace Kush Kumar
Expectations on squash player Kush Kumar are high, and understandably so after the immense potential the ace showed as a junior. Moving from Delhi to Chennai to train at the Indian Squash Academy was by far one of the most productive decisions he has made thus far in his young career. That move alone made many believe this young man had a wise head on his shoulders. Wisdom comes through experience or even intuition.
Kumar realized that dreaming to be a top player is one thing but to achieve that quite another. It needed not just sacrifice but the right system of training and mental framework. The ISA provided that and he had begun to blossom as a squash player with strong basics. As Maj S. Maniam, the Consultant Coach at ISA said of him, “Kush has a strong self-belief and backed by good talent, he is a player to watch.”
Yet the transition to senior ranks has not been all rosy. Failures, as they say, form the pillars to success. Perhaps he is going through that phase. But flashes of his ability came through clearly in Australia not long ago, when Kumar played a series of five professional tournaments. He had won one and progressed high in others and the good work got reflected in the PSA rankings thereafter as he improved his ranking to 91 from somewhere in the 150 level earlier.
He also made the semi-finals of the British Junior Open Squash Championships early this year in January.
And there are miles to go still for this young man, who is only 20-years-old, and plays a game that would made a seasoned player nod in approval. “I have realized in the senior level of competition there is no time to rest. There are no hopes of an easy first round or two. Every point when on court has to be earned with technique and temperament,” Kumar has assessed and towards this end what are his plans ahead. “Practice and hard training,” said the ambitious player without batting tan eyelid.
For the moment, Kumar is not keen on winning or losing but enjoying his play. In addition, the stiff training at academy will get him ready for tougher competitions. In India now after his Australian sojourn, the Chennai-based player featured in the three legs of the JSW-PSA tournaments in Mumbai and Kolkata but could do little except reaching the main round. “That is where I realized ranking mattered a lot. A higher ranking ensured invitation to direct entry in tournaments,” he said.
In fact, he has two more tournaments for this year – the PSA final leg at Chennai and a tournament in the USA. The American trip is also to re-join David Palmer’s training group and spend some valuable time there. “I have no goals now, but would aim to come into top 50 by next year,” he said.
Knowing his resolve and the benefit of quality training he is assured of at the ISA, this young collegian (currently an under-graduate student at the D.G. Vaishnav college in Chennai) is not one to occupy his mind with thoughts of anything except being a better equipped player, worthy of being on the PSA tour and he looks forward to rubbing shoulders with some of the best in the business of squash play.
All these thoughts do not unnerve him but only steels his resolve. “For now, let me enjoy what I am doing. There is so much to achieve and I need to prepare for that step by step,” he says with his unmistakable touch of confidence and characteristic smile.