Without coach since March, India's squash contingent fends for itself ahead of Asiad
(Eds: correcting headline)
By Bharat Sharma
New Delhi, July 23 (PTI) The Squash Racket Federation of India's (SRFI)inability to find a full-time head coach ever since the bitter exit of Egyptian Achraf El Karargui has affected the Indian team's preparations ahead of the Asian Games in Indonesia next month.
The lack of a world-class coach has led to players preparing individually in different parts of the world. A SAI official confirmed to PTI that SRFI did not recommend a single name for the coach's job ever since the departure of Karargui, who quit in March ahead of the Commonwealth Games after being fed up of an "unprofessional" SRFI.
While top players Saurav Ghosal and Joshna Chinappa have been training in England under different coaches with government funding, Dipika Pallikal is off to Egypt to train with former India coach Karargui.
Harinder Pal Sandhu has also joined Ghosal at Pontefract, England and they both will be training together before returning home for the Asiad camp in Chennai from August 10.
The top players are used to being on their own while competing on the professional tour but in the case of world and multi-sporting events like the Asian Games, the entire squad is better off training together.
"In an ideal scenario, it would be nice for all of us to train together for team events but that is not possible at the moment. It is really sad that someone of the calibre of Karargui had to go and no one has replaced him yet," India's number one men's player Ghosal said.
"Having said that, my individual training has been going well. I had a fruitful stint with David Palmer (former world number one) in the US and now I am here at Pontefract, which has been my training base ever since I was 18.
"So, the players who mostly train in India would benefit a lot more from a full-time coach than someone like me,"said Ghosal, who won a team gold and individual silver at the 2014 Incheon edition.
Ghosal also lamented the lack of top-notch coaches in the country including at the SRFI-run Indian Squash Academy (ISA) in Chennai.
While there have been suggestions to expand the game in India by taking the ISA to other big cities, the world number 12 said he would rather first address the pressing needs of the sport's hub in Chennai.
"We guys are on the tour for major part of the year, so effectively we don't even need a a full-time coach exclusively for ourselves. It is for the players coming up. A hands-on junior coach is also the need of the hour, someone who is taking care of the budding talent. We just do not have good enough coaches at the moment," said Ghosal.
Cyrus Poncha is the national coach on paper but it is the foreign coach who has always been in charge of things. Poncha and former national champion Bhuvneshwari Kumari will be travelling with the team to Jakarta but players feel they will be of little help and will mostly rely on each other for technical and tactical advice.
"I rather ask the senior players for help than the coaches we have at the moment," said a player, requesting anonymity.
Besides Ghosal, Sandhu, Pallikal and Chinappa, the other members of the Asian Games squad are Sunayna Kuruvilla, Tanvi Khanna, Ramit Tandon and Mahesh Mangaonkar.
The Ghosal-led Indian men's team had won a maiden gold at Incheon, beating Malaysia while the women settled for a maiden silver after losing to Nicol David's Malaysia.
SRFI officials remained unavailable for a comment