World Junior Squash Championships: An enriching training for the junior players in Egypt
Change is the essence of progress. And squash in India has been one sport that has been undergoing a change over the years, and more so after the new millennium. It was the coming of the Indian Squash Academy, inspired by the then SRFI Secretary General Mr N. Ramachandran, that brought in a revolution in terms of structured training and development of talents.
The parent body’s latest thinking is seeking the benefit of specialised training/ coaching for junior talents in elite centres. The decision to send the team, preparing for the Junior World Championships scheduled in New Zealand from July 19 to 29, to a two-week training session to Egypt was in keeping with this objective.
In today's world of squash, Egypt is a formidable name, not only because of the class of players but the number of quality players that the country keeps throwing up. Everybody and anybody who has to do something with squash know that be it men or women, the top ten ranking is dominated by Egyptian players.
Besides, any major international fixture would see a swarm of Egyptian players descending there and grab the honours. As Major S. Maniam, the Malaysian Coaching expert and former Consultant Coach of SRFI would put it, “It is a cycle, this domination, and for now Egyptians have come to stay and raised the level of excellence in the process.”
In many ways then, every player outside the Egyptian domain is only curious to know what makes these players from the African nation so extraordinary.
As Abhay Singh, the leading U-19 Indian player and one of the ten players who benefitted from this tour, said, “The intensity of training is high there. The 12 courts there in the centre we trained are always full of activity and generally, a two to three hours wait to get on to the court is not uncommon.
“There is a variety of players, each good in certain areas of skill and that helps in the sparring sessions. Overall development becomes a lot more smoother. It was awesome overall, something that was a dream for me.”
Similar was the response of the junior champion Sunayna Kuruvilla, another beneficiary. “It was truly intensive. About 4 to five hours of training that combined fitness and skills. It was very enriching,” she said. Both these top juniors welcomed the exposure just as much as they and other members enjoyed the scenic spots, including the pyramids and the museum.
National coach Cyrus Poncha said the Federation's move for specialised training was in tune with the changing times in Indian squash. He said the growth of players has been amazing and pointed to the way how U-17 boys stormed their way into the team for the world juniors.
Elaborating on the heartening scene, Poncha said, “Players like Tushar Shahani, Veer Chotrani and Yash Fadte are still U-17 players and they have through their skills and temperament come into the higher age (U-19) fold. The significant thing is these players have age factor in their favour to last for the next junior world championship too and that is scheduled in India, in Chennai next year.”
The players would not only be that bit more experienced but also be in a stronger frame of mind to fight for places in the top bracket, said Poncha on the welcoming change in the junior scenario in Indian squash. The national coach said the Federation would have more such programmes to help bring up the talents on strong lines in the seasons to come.
Aside from Abhay and Sunayna, the others who had been to Egypt were Aditya Raghavan, Aryaman Adik, Tushar Shahani, Veer Chotrani, Yash Fadte, Akanksha Salunkhe, Aishwarya Bhattacharya and Ashita Pranaya Bhengra. All of them are part of the squad for World Juniors to be held in the city of Tauranga in New Zealand.
The world championship will see Individual competitions for boys and girls which will be followed by the team competition for girls only. Two other girls – Samita Sivakumar and Sanya Vats – will join the squad to play in the individual competitions. Incidentally, India's best show in the championship has been a third place finish by the girls in 2009 in Chennai.