Tamil Nadu has a field day

THE squash scene has never looked this healthy at the National level. From what used to be in the main just a National without the throng of competitors, the National sub-junior and junior squash championship held at the now familiar TNSRA-SDAT courts in Chennai was a revelation. With over 350 entries for the 10 individual events from under-11 to under-19 in the boys' and girls' sections, the atmosphere throbbed with competitive spirit. Fittingly the competitions were keen and close. The fact that at the end of it all the Squash Rackets Federation of India, as General Secretary, N. Ramachandran said, could shortlist a bunch of 15 boys from the talent pool keeping in mind the World junior championship in Pakistan next year is a reflection of the changing times.

Winners all. Standing (from left): Joshna Chinappa (girls' under-19), Saurav Ghosal (boys' under-19), Harinderpal Singh (boys' under-15) and Sandeep Jangra (boys' under-17). Kneeling (from left): Mahesh Mangaonkar (boys' under-11), Ramit Tandon (boys' under-13), Sachika Balwani (girls' under-11), Shibani Philip (girls' under-15), Anwesha Reddy (girls' under-13) and Alisha Mashruwala (girls' under-17). — Pic: VINO JOHN-

Planned development and methodical training at the Academy, in particular the ICL Academy, which is housed in the TNSRA-SDAT complex, have gone a long way in setting squash on the path to growth. And the results have begun to show. No better examples than the two under-19 champions and easily the stars among the junior talent in India — Saurav Ghosal and Joshna Chinappa. They have been the inspiration to many an aspiring squash player and indeed their exploits have begun to rub on the others. The sample was the National itself where reputations took a dent and some new names came on the horizon.

Players such as Harinderpal Singh and V. Anwesha Reddy have risen to knock at the doors of recognition. Harinder, who shifted base from Punjab to Chennai to develop his skills under the expert care of National coach Cyrus Poncha and SRFI consultant coach, Maj (retd) S. Maniam of Malaysia, delivered the goods with a convincing win over favourite Vikram Malhotra in the under-15 final. Coached by Rajiv Reddy, Anwesha on the other hand, returning to competitive squash after a short break to nurse her torn ligaments on the playing hand, downed her rival and reigning under-13 champion Dipika Pallikal, who had recently found success in the German Open championship.

With five titles in all, Tamil Nadu had a field day. There was expectation of a bonus in the form of A. Parthiban, the boy virtually picked up from the streets by the squash community in the city. Pitted against top seed Sandeep Jangra he showed his limitations in the under-17 section. Parthiban had beaten the second seed Manek Mathur but the other Maharashtrian in the final proved a tougher proposition. It is deception mixed with variation in length of strokes that makes a player perfect. Sandeep is well on the road to perfection for a fine future.

Overall it was an interesting week of squash and it did not matter in the end that Saurav and Joshna went untouched but there is promise that such permanency may not remain a right in the seasons to come. The talent pool is growing, and that has pleased the SRFI officials more. Just as well that happy tidings happened to be witnessed by the Sports Authority of India's Director General, Shekar Dutt as the chief guest on the final day.

If Ramachandran now insists that the Government should rethink on the list of sports disciplines on the priority list and seeks squash's inclusion in the elite company then he certainly has a point. "Which sport has progressed as much in such a short time as this racket sport?" he asks.

For the record the inaugural inter-State team event in the under-19 and under-15 sections saw Tamil Nadu win both the titles in the girls' section and Maharashtra take the boys' honours.

The results (all finals)

Boys: Under-19: Saurav Ghosal (TN) beat Gaurav Nandrajog (New Delhi) 9-7, 9-6, 9-7; Team event: Maharashtra beat Tamil Nadu 2-1 (Sandeep Jangra beat A. Parthiban 9-0, 9-6, 4-9, 9-3; Vikas Jangra lost to Saurav Ghosal 3-9, 1-9, 3-9; Anurag Gill beat Vinayak Shetty 9-2, 9-5-, 9-1). Under-17: Sandeep Jangra (Mah) beat A. Parthiban (TN) 9-0, 9-4, 9-7; Under-15: Harinderpal Singh (TN) beat Vikram Malhotra (Mah) 9-5, 7-9, 9-7, 8-10, 9-5; Team event: Maharashtra beat Maharashtra 'B' 3-0 (Vikram Malhotra beat Laxman Joshi 9-3, 9-0, 9-0; Naishadh Lalwani beat Anup Sharma 9-7,9-3 9-0; Tanmay Govil beat Nitin Chauhan 9-10, 9-5, 9-2, 9-0); Under-13: Ramit Tandon (WB) beat Ravi Dixit (ND) 9-3, 9-7, 9-4; Under-11: Mahesh Mangaonkar (Mah) beat Abhishek Pradhan (Mah) 9-5, 9-3, 9-7.

Girls: Under-19: Joshna Chinappa (TN) beat Alisha Mashruwala (Mah) 9-3, 9-6, 9-4; Team event: Tamil Nadu beat Maharashtra 3-0 (Joshna Chinappa beat Shahnaz Dastur 9-3, 9-0, 9-0; Shruthi Reddy beat Madhura Paranjpe 9-2, 9-2, 9-2; Sonali Philip beat Shivangi Paranjpe 9-0, 9-0, 9-0); Under-17: Alisha Mashruwala (Mah) beat Sruthi Reddy (TN) 9-5, 9-3, 9-5; Under-15: Shibani Philip (TN) beat Madhura Paranjpe (Mah) 5-9, 9-6, 9-2, 8-10, 9-3; Team event: Tamil Nadu beat Maharashtra 3-0 (Shibani Philip beat Madhura Paranjpe 9-3, 9-4, 9-2; Dipika Pallikal beat Shivangi Paranjpe 9-2, 9-2, 9-4; V. Anwesha Reddy beat Nikita Emmanuel 9-2, 9-1, 9-3); Under-13: V. Anwesha Reddy (TN) beat Dipika Pallikal (TN)10-8, 6-9, 9-3, 9-3; Under-11: Sachika Balwani (Mah) beat Ankita Sharma (Mah) 8-10, 9-0, 9-3, 9-5.

S. R. Suryanarayan