Reaching great heights

AS a kid, Joshna Chinappa often frequented the Madras Cricket Club because that was where her father Anjan Chinappa would leave her even as he indulged in his favourite pastime of playing squash.

S.R. SURYANARAYAN

Joshna Chinappa... a full-fledged player. — Pic. V. GANESAN-

AS a kid, Joshna Chinappa often frequented the Madras Cricket Club because that was where her father Anjan Chinappa would leave her even as he indulged in his favourite pastime of playing squash. By age six itself the hyperactive child was curious about the sport. The interest developed, as did the desire to feel the racket, have a whack, and get thrilled over the effect of the effort. The initiation did not take long to follow. In a way Joshna was a girl in a hurry in the world of squash because she tended to reach heights beyond her age. Prodigiously talented was what observers with a keen eye for the finer points would tell her father. Perhaps the best prophecy came from Kumari Bhuvaneswari whose name used to be synonymous with women's squash. She saw Joshna at six years handle the racquet and said: "I am seeing a champion in the making." The rest as they say is history.

Currently just over 17 years and Joshna is already the indisputable queen of Indian squash, nay even Asia. For she is the reigning Asian junior champion, a title she won in Islamabad in February this year to become the first Indian to achieve the honour. There was the dream of something bigger when she set off to Cairo in August for the junior world championship. But unlucky to meet a rival, not only senior to her by age but a lot accomplished, Joshna, despite given that aura of importance around her, did not go past the ultimate winner, Omneya Abdel Kawy of Egypt. That was the quarter-final stage, another first by an Indian. The humility in her was reflected when she confessed that the Egyptian was far superior but within her Joshna had pegged her next goal: that of becoming the world junior champion. She still has the years before her and of course tons of confidence, determination and dedication stored in her.

Not surprising for a girl who seemed to make history every other day. She was hardly out of her parent's protective fold when Joshna won her first career title as a 10-year old in the MCC competition. Success did not turn her complacent even at that tender age. Egged on by her understanding parents, who left no stone unturned to ensure that her focus remained intact, and her sights, which kept rising for higher deeds, Joshna's climb seemed a natural course. With the school authorities of Lady Andal fully cooperating, the precocious talent could go her way and, when at the age of 14 years she became the youngest senior national champion, the kid had become a sensation. As the junior and senior champion at 14 years, Joshna had eclipsed the feat of Vijay Amritraj, Ramesh Krishnan, Prakash Padukona, all of whom had held the record but at an age higher than hers.

A full-fledged player of outstanding abilities, Joshna's speciality, according to experts, is that she has an array of strokes that is bewildering. Her strength lies in her power and deception apart from reading her opponent astutely. For someone who has won junior age group titles in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Scotland and the jewel among all, the British Open, Joshna has an enviable record already in the world of squash. Like Sachin Tendulkar in cricket, who many experts believe would break all records before he quits the game, Joshna has the potential to go very far. And she is not even 18. Coming from a family which has squash running right through — her great grandfather was the late Field Marshal K. M. Cariappa — Joshna is sure to become, one day, the jewel in the crown of achievements of the illustrious family.