Squash: Velavan leads India's charge at Hong Kong event

After India's great performances at the British Junior Open (BJO) where Velavan Senthilkumar won the U-19 title, Abhay Singh took the runner up spot and Adhitya Raghavan came third, expectations have understandably risen on the juniors' potential.

With the Asian individual title that he had won a few months earlier, Velavan has certainly done his bit to raise India's squash stock.   -  r. ragu

After India's great performances at the British Junior Open (BJO) where Velavan Senthilkumar won the U-19 title, Abhay Singh took the runner up spot and Adhitya Raghavan came third, expectations have understandably risen on the juniors' potential. However, the true test will come at the Asian junior team squash championships in Hong Kong, which will be held from February 1 to 5.

With the Asian individual title that he had won a few months earlier, Velavan has certainly done his bit to raise India's squash stock. All this is reflected in the national team getting the top billing in the seedings at the event.

This is the first time India is seeded top in the midst of powerhouses such as Pakistan and Malaysia. Aside from Velavan, the team comprises Abhay Singh, Aryaman Adik and Ranjit Singh. The teams in India's pool are Pakistan, Iran, Japan, Korea and Macau. The Indian boys had won the title back in 2011.

Yet for all this, as national team's coach Cyrus Poncha, who is accompanying the side, puts it, “We are going to the championship with a mixed feeling because while the boys' side represent the best from India, the girls' for various reasons is virtually the B side.”

He said the non-availability of the initially selected players -- Akanksha Salunkhe (injury), Sunayna Kuruvilla (personal reasons) and Ashita Bhengra (academic issues) -- meant India will be represented by Nikita Joshi, Aishwarya Bhattarcharya, Vedika Arun and Sanya Vats. Except for Nikita the rest will be appearing for India for the first time. India's girls' team is clubbed with Hong Kong, Japan and Sri Lanka.

Both the boys' and girls' teams had finished third in the 2015 edition held in Malaysia. Aside from Poncha, the other officials with the team are Surbhi Misra and Egyptian coach Achraf El Karargui. The Indian team will leave for Hong Kong on Monday.