Age: 18

From: Mumbai

Hyper-active little kids hooked on football, hockey, cricket, badminton or athletics is normal. Veer Chotrani’s hand-eye coordination for racquet sport stood out from early years and squash became his entry into a fantasy world. The 2019 Asian junior champion at 17 is currently honing his skills under noted coach David Palmer at Cornell University, New York. The American collegiate experience and personal supervision under the former world champion from Australia can only benefit the young Indian to perform better at the higher level.

The freeze on competitions in 2020 due to the pandemic led to cancellation of the Asian Junior Individual Championship (China) and WSF World Junior Championship (Australia), denying him the opportunity to prove his mettle in age group events at the regional and international level. He also missed the chance to retain the Asian junior individual boys’ title that he won last year in Macau.

Veer was in top form in that tournament as he outlasted top seed Siow Yee Xian of Singapore and fancied Harris Qasim of Pakistan in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, and then squashed teammate Yash Fadte’s hopes in the under-19 final.

Palmer, former world men’s No. 1, got a close look at the teenager from Mumbai at a private training session in New Delhi. Veer was accompanied by father-cum-coach Manish Chotrani, two-time India men’s national champion (1999, 2001). The latter remembers the time when the kid would spend hours at home hitting a squash ball against the cupboard or the book shelf and converting whatever he got in hand into an imaginary racquet. The room turned into an imaginary squash court and he kept scores in games against an invisible opponent.

The strokeplay sessions started even before he enrolled in school (Jamnabai Narsee, Mumbai) and those hours spent hitting the ball resulted in development of game instinct or what is referred to as muscle memory.

The wristy punch, feel for the angles and canny court movements assisted the kid rise through the ranks, winning age group titles in city tournaments. He qualified for the Asian Juniors for first time as a 15-year-old in the under-19 category. Last year at the senior nationals in Pune, he progressed to the men’s semifinals before bowing down to India international Mahesh Mangaonkar, the eventual champion.

Collegiate sport in the US is the focus of Veer’s attention for now, till the circuit resumes. The 2019 World Juniors quarterfinalist in Kuala Lumpur is getting noticed from season one at Cornell University. A freshman in 2019-20, enrolled in arts and life sciences, the Indian earned the Ivy League Rookie of the Year distinction and was named in the College Squash Association all America first team. The 5’ 9” tall Veer got a place in the CSA All-America first team and in the Ivy League All-America first team in 2020.