Nothing succeeds like success

Historic win… the Indian team which won the bronze medal in the World junior championship in Doha.-

The structured training programme at the Indian Squash Academy is beginning to pay rich dividends, writes S.R. Suryanarayan.

Squash in India has been consistently maintaining high levels. We have had Asian champions, British Open winners, not to speak of various other champions in continental-level open events. However, the current year has proved to be the most rewarding so far.

The year started with India winning the silver medal in the World U-21 championship, followed by the gold medal in the Asian women’s team championship.

The nation’s latest successes came in the Asian junior individual championship (June 19-23 in Kish Islands, Iran), where it won two gold medals apart from one silver and six bronzes, and the World junior championship (July 7-18, in Doha) where it won a historic bronze in the boys’ team event.

Ever since the structured training programme, scripted by the Consultant coach, Maj. S. Manian, a Malaysian, was put into practice at the Indian Squash Academy in Chennai, India has been tasting success.

While players such as Saurav Ghosal, Siddarth Suchde, Sahil Vora and Gaurav Nandrajog had made a name for themselves with their exploits in the World Championship in 2004, Vikram Malhotra, Aditya Jagtap, Ravi Dixit and Ramit Tandon shone in 2008.

Doing India proud… the singles winners in the Asian junior championship, Kush Kumar.-

However, the success of India’s latest bunch — Kush Kumar, Mahesh Mangaonkar, Abishek Pradhan and Vrishab Kotian — far exceeded the achievements of their predecessors, for it was for the first time that the nation returned from the World junior championship with a medal. What is more, India defeated England for the first time at the world level to win the bronze medal.

The player who shone for India was Kush Kumar, who, only a month before the World event, had won the Asian Under-17 title. Coming from a modest background, Kush is the latest product from the ISA to make a name for himself.

Kush’s success is a significant chapter in the ISA history. The talented player from Dhampur (UP) was given all the encouragement at the ISA, which also took care of his education and basic needs.

In Doha, the first signs of his calibre were evident in the quarterfinal where India took on Hong Kong in a close match. Kush clinched a thriller after the teams were tied 1-1 (Vrishab Kotiyan lost the first match and Mahesh Mangaonkar restored parity for India). As the National coach, Cyrus Poncha, who had accompanied the team, put it, “Kush plays the volleys and drops with great control and deception and that makes all the difference.”

Glimpses of Kush’s capability were seen again in the placings match against England (in the semifinals, India lost to Egypt while Pakistan ousted England). India was expected to finish fourth, but Kush’s defeat of Richie Fallows paved the way for the historic win, which was completed by Mahesh who beat Ollie Holland.

Anaka Alankamony.-

Mahesh is another talent of the highest order. A winner of the Under-15 British Open earlier, Mahesh has been training mostly in Mumbai. He is expected to shift base to Chennai soon to get more guidance from Poncha and Maj. Maniam.

If the Doha success was a special moment for India, the Asian Individual championship in Iran proved to be another rewarding experience. Once again Kush was in the centre of the action, winning his maiden U-17 title while Anaka Alankamony, the National champion, claimed the U-19 title for the second time in succession.

With another year left as a junior, Anaka, a student of the SSN Engineering College, has a chance to make it a hat-trick of victories — a feat no other Indian has achieved.

Overall, India had a very successful tournament in Kish with nine of its players featuring in the semifinals in various age categories. Apart from the gold medals won by Kush and Anaka, India also won one silver (Dev Vazarani) and six bronzes (Ashita Bengra, Nikita Joshi, Harshit Jawanda, Robin Mann, Vijay Meena Kumar and Mahesh Mangaonkar).