Junior boys make India proud

The Victorious Indian junior boys's team.-

The Indian boys' team created history when it downed arch-rival and title holder Pakistan in the final of the Asian Junior squash championship in Colombo on January 29. It was India's maiden triumph since the inception of the tournament in 1981.

Playing to a packed crowd at the Sri Lankan Air Force base squash venue, the Indian team of Ramit Tandon, Abhishek Pradhan, Mahesh Mangaonkar and Vrishab Kotian rose to the occasion as the boys outplayed the mighty Pakistanis.

India No. 1 and captain Tandon, who had been untested so far, confirmed that he is certainly the most improved Indian squash player in recent times. Playing Danish Atlas Khan, the Pakistani No. 1, in a match that went the distance, Tandon displayed amazing skills. Winning the first game 11-7 with his comprehensive finish shots, Tandon was pumped up. He lost the second game 6-11, but came back strongly to win the third 11-9.

Danish then took the fourth game 11-8, to set up a tough decider. The two played great squash and the score read 6-6 before Tandon jumped to a 9-6 lead. Danish then fought back to level 9-9. The next two points were blistering rallies with both players covering every inch of the court. Tandon finally won the game 11-9 with a backhand drop volley.

It was a great match and the crowd was entertained to a high level of squash, which kept everyone glued to their seats until the very last point.

“I have not seen skills at this level among any Indian players in the last decade,” said Major (Retd) S. Maniam, consultant coach of the Indian team. “This certainly augurs well for Indian squash. All the hard work put in by the players with the unwavering support from the federation and the government is producing the desired results,” said Maniam.

Pradhan, India's No. 2, took on Nasir Iqbal in the next match. Pradhan tried hard to retrieve as many shots as he could, but he was outplayed 3-0.

The deciding tie saw two lanky players, Mangaonkar and Sadam Ul Haq, in action. From the onset Mangaonkar stamped his authority and did not give the Pakistani any hope of winning the tie. Showing true class, Mangaonkar romped home 3-0 as the elated Indian team jumped for joy.

“With this victory in hand, India now is the proud winner of three of the four Asian junior titles. Six months ago, Ravi Dixit and Dipika Pallikal won the Asian Junior individual championship (boys and girls under-19). Now, we have won the Junior boys' team title,” said Srivatsan Subramaniam, secretary general, Squash Racquets Federation of India.

The results (final): India beat Pakistan 2-1 (Ramit Tandon bt Danish Atlas Khan 11-7, 6-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-9; Abhishek Pradhan lost to Nasir Iqbal 4-11, 7-11, 3-11; Mahesh Mangaonkar bt Sadam Ul Haq 11-7, 11-2, 11-6).