Asian Squash Championship returns to India after seven years and the organisers are pulling out all the stops to make the 19th edition a success. But they did have their share of obstacles — crowd-puller Nicol David remained a non-starter for Malaysia, Pakistan was yet to send an official communique to the Squash Rackets Federation of India about pulling out of the tournament;, and a State-wide bandh in Chennai on Tuesday affected the practice schedule just a day before the Championship.

Youngsters ready to take on the mantle

But there is a lot to look forward to.

Hong Kong players have taken the top seeding in the men’s and women’s event but the optimism of an Indian victory in the Championship is palpable in the air at the Indian Squash Academy. In the 18-edition long history of the Championship, Misha Grewal’s silver medal effort of 1996 in Jordan remains the best, but Dipika Pallikal Karthik, the fourth seeded Indian, believes that Indian players can win the gold this time around.

“It’s such a great opportunity for us. To have the last tournament of the season . We have a great chance. I am not lying when I can say that we can win gold in both the categories. So hopefully we can enjoy our game back home, play really good squash and hopefully win both the titles on Sunday,” the 25-year-old said with gumption.

Second seeded Saurav Ghosal has the best chance to win the Asian Squash Championship this time and will begin his campaign against Lydio Espinola Jr or Benedict Chan after getting a first-round bye. Joshna Chinappa, the best ranked women’s player in India, will also look to make history in her home base. Seeded second, the 30-year-old Indian may have an easy passage into the semi-final.

The trio of Saurav, Joshna and Dipika, as they have done for close to a decade now, will once again lead the Indian challenge in the championship.

Throwing the hat into the ring is another exciting talent from Chennai — Velavan Senthilkumar.

Velavan has been enjoying a particularly good year, having captured the British Junior Open U-19 in January. He is coming into the tournament after featuring in two back-to-back PSA finals in South Africa — Parkview Open and West Rand Open. He is ready to push himself to his limits this week at the Asian Championship before giving his body the much needed rest. “It was a really good two weeks and I had to start from the qualifiers and play about 12 matches. It’s hard, but I did push through it. Hopefully I can make a good transition from the junior level to the senior level,” the 19-year-old said.

The crowd support will add to the Indian advantage and it will be naturally augmented by the sheer choice of venue - The Express Avenue (EA) shopping mall. The matches are split between the Indian Squash Academy and the EA. The footfall in the shopping mall in the summers and a glass chamber in the atrium is enough to pull in curious onlookers to the temporary gallery set up just outside the glass court.