Squash: Anahat and Yuvraj, birds of the same feather
It has been a fairytale run so far for two of India's brightest young squash talents, Anahat Singh (U-11) and Yuvraj Wadhwani (U-13). After some wonderful exploits in the year that just went by when the two won the respective national titles and Yuvraj even went on to win the Asian junior crown, the two started the New Year with aplomb.
Both have won medals in the British Junior Open, keeping alive the tradition of an Indian rising to the podium in this prestigious championship, considered the junior Wimbledon in squash.
While Anahat rose to the top and won the U-11 title in the girls section, Yuvraj had to settle for the bronze in the boys' side. But the fact remains both are back with medals, something that triggered happiness in Indian squash circles while the Squash Rackets Federation of India believes each good result is a spin-off of the positive steps being taken at the national level to keep raising the level of competition in this sport.
It is revealing how competitions bring the true character of the players. Anahat, claims her mother Tani Vadehra Singh was pretty cool in her ways when she was not on court. “But on court, she can be aggressive and one who dislikes losing and if the going is tough to fight to the last,” she said of her wonderfully talented daughter.
Anahat's elder sister Amira Singh is also a national level squash player (U-17) but what separates out the younger one is her penchant for achieving results. The year 2018 saw her participate in most of the national circuit tournaments, all over the country (there are 20 in all) and she capped the year's show by winning the national U-11 title as well. “The national circuit tournament,” Tani said helped in giving Anahat a good exposure to competition in various conditions.
Though, she said, Anahat would have been much better of with more practice on glass court. “It is not easy to adjust quickly to the glass-walled court after playing in the conventional ones and Anahat did feel this,” Tani said, adding with a chuckle that “may be she should think of finding ways to spend more time in Chennai's ISA facilities.”
More or less similar was the opinion of Rohini Wadhwani, Yuvraj's mother on the playing conditions. “Yuvraj did not drop a game until the semi-final but there he lost to a Malaysian player and I could see how difficult it was for him to adjust to the glass-walled court,” she said.
Nonetheless Rohini was happy with her son's squash career, considering that 2018 saw him win the Asian U-13 crown and then the boy went on to prove his mettle in the national by winning the title. For all this, this Mumbai youngster could very well have been a swimmer and not a squash player.
“Yuvraj had begun proving his skill in butterfly technique but squash turned addictive, more so after he saw his father sweating it out. Thus began his longing to be a full-fledged squash player,” the mother said and clearly both the parents and Yuvraj himself have not regretted his one bit.
Both Yuvraj and Anahat are happy for the support that SRFI and National Coach Cyrus Poncha in encouraging them to rise and represent the country. One common point of agreement was the national circuit. “The many tournaments in the circuit,” have helped is the refrain.
Both did not forget their coaches, Yuvraj mentioned Ritwik Bhattacharya, Avinash Bhavnani, Naresh Kumar, Akaar among other, his school (Bombay Scottish school) while Anahat recalled the role of Coaches Amjad Khan and Puneet Singh and remembered with gratitude her school- the British School in Delhi.
In short, Yuvraj and Anahat have already proved themselves as the ones with that extra edge in their play. It is this that will be keenly followed as the days go by and when they garner more laurels to make themselves and the country proud.