His name is synonymous with Indian squash and largely responsible for India finally looking at the sport as more than a fitness pastime for the privileged, middle-aged class and a genuine medal contender at the highest level of competition.
Saurav Ghosal, at 37, continues to be the flag-bearer of Indian squash and shows no signs of slowing down. The list is long – a pro for more than 20 years, seven medals in Asian Games and on the podium every time since 2006, 2 bronze at CWG, mixed doubles gold at World Doubles Championship, third at World Cup, besides multiple PSA Tour titles.
Having led the Indian team to a hard-fought win against powerhouse Malaysia and a final spot in Hangzhou, Ghosal sat down for an exclusive chat with Sportstar.
Q. At 37, what keeps Saurav Ghosal still going?
Firstly, it’s just being able to go to training every day and wanting to be a better player. If I didn’t have that motivation to be a better player every time I went to a squash court or to the gym, it would be very difficult for me to compete at the highest level and if I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be playing.
Secondly, I want to do things which will enhance my legacy a little bit. So winning a medal at CWG last year was a big thing, hopefully winning here will be big, and being in the top 5 in PSA rankings would be huge -- those are things that keep me going. There are things where I can still push the envelope a bit more for Indian squash and so long as my body and mind feel up to the battle of doing that, I will do it. The day I feel I don’t want to push any more, it will be over.
Q. Is an individual Asiad gold the missing piece in your cabinet?
Of course, it’s missing but when I started, I never thought I would win all that I did so I have to be grateful for all that. If I win it this year it will be brilliant, the missing piece as you say. I try to control what I can and try to put myself in the best possible position to win both the team and individual golds. But there are things not in my control and then we have to produce our best and let destiny take over, that’s all I can ask of myself and of ourselves as a team as well.
Q. You were already a 3-time national champion by the time Anahat Singh was born. How does it feel to share the dressing room with her, does it make you feel old?
Gosh, I hadn’t realised that! I call her Miss Giggles because every time she sees me, she starts laughing, I wish my wife thought I was that funny too! We are from different generations and we do a lot of things differently but, overall, no I don’t think so. I think I feel I am young as well in terms of things I do, I don’t genuinely feel 37. She has no airs or attitude, which is great. And it’s good to be around different age groups of people in the team – variety is always great in life and everyone generally gets along very well
. Q. What do you feel about her as a player?
She is a great talent, she is very good at what she does. I think her biggest strength is how good she is mentally; I wish I was as good as her at that age. When I watch her play, I feel like she really wants to, she is enjoying it and I feel happy seeing that. She’s just 15, she’s got a few things she needs to clean up in her life, which is normal for any teenager, but she’s willing to learn on the court. Hopefully, she will be able to make the transition from a fantastic junior to a professional because that’s something not just on but also off the court. Hopefully, she will be able to take care of herself and her life well enough to realise the potential she has. She is probably one with the highest potential in Indian squash at the moment and it’s important we encourage her but it’s also important we don’t put unreal pressure on her.
Q. Does playing for India come with extra pressure compared to playing on the tour?
For sure. Playing for India and playing individually, the adrenaline is more, it’s just natural. There is a responsibility with me being the seniormost person, it’s expected but, at the end of the day, we are not playing together on court. We are playing individually to produce our best and be as clinical as possible. And the best way I can lead the team is by doing that, winning my matches and setting the right example for everyone. We have different characters in the team so you have to try and manage those characters and try and bring their best out in that environment. In team matches there’s a different pressure of which order to play, understand how to approach the matches and figure out who is going to manage those situations best. But that comes with the territory and being with the squad for so long. It is a privilege to be in this position and I am not going to complain about it.
Q. What would you like to take away from this Asian Games, most likely your last?
Well, of course, I want to win two golds, that’s something I think is a realistic target. It’s very difficult but possible, if we can do it that would be great. Also, this venue, the village, the organisation of it all has been spot on till now and I hope it continues in the same vein so there is a good memory of what we did off-court. In my ideal world, two golds on October 5 in my neck would be perfect.
Q. What would Saurav Ghosal want to be his legacy?
I think I would like my legacy to be someone who’s achieved what I did but, at the same time, did it the right way and was a decent example for everyone watching and all the young people playing and behaving well. At the end of the day, someone who was a good and approachable person to just speak to and be nice to someone. If I can leave with that I will be happy.
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