Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu is still 'a bit scared to play'

Looking forward to his comeback after a period of nine-long months due to injury, squash player Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu recounts his struggles.

Harinder is set to make his comeback with the HCL-SRFI Indian Tour (PSA) beginning at the Indian Squash Academy in Chennai.   -  R. Ravindran

After injuring his back during the CCI International squash Open in Mumbai in January this year, the 30-year-old will be in action after a gap of nine months, and is eager to make a mark in the second leg of the HCL-SRFI Indian Tour (PSA) beginning at the Indian Squash Academy here on October 13.

In the early stage of his injury, even the normal chores, Harinder found it tough. “I couldn’t bend to touch my knees, and also found it extremely difficult to remove my shirt,” Harinder told Sportstar in a chat on Friday at ISA.

Though scarred, Harinder is doing his best to erase the memory of the pain, and is looking ahead for better times.

In the Chennai event, Harinder is hopeful of putting up a good show. “It’s in my home courts. [Am] not thinking too far ahead. [At] the back of my mind I would love to win; that’s the main goal. I have played with all the players and had good results against them. It depends on how [my] mind plays over matter,” said Harinder, who has won two World Tour titles.


Harinder injured his back in January and needed nine months to complete rehabilitation.


Have a pegged world ranking (or injury-protected ranking) at 95, Harinder is in the main draw of the Indian Tour here, where he will take on Iranian Sajad Zareian Jahromi of Iran, on Sunday.

Harinder's rehabilitation was done in two cities: in Mohali and in Chennai.

For the first three months (January to March), he was at the Abhinav Bindra Targeting Performance Centre and then he did strength conditioning extensively at the Primal Patterns, run by former Indian cricket fitness trainer Shankar Basu. “I had severe nerve impingements. That was sorted by Dr. Digbal Ranawat and Rohit [Kalyan] at Mohali. They worked very hard in getting me pain-free first, and then getting my posture right. 

"After that I came back to Chennai in April. Since then I have been working at Primal Patterns and they have made me match-fit,” said Harinder, who was part of the Indian team which won the men’s gold in the 2014 Asian Games.

At the start of the season, Harinder was optimistic of getting into the top 30; his career-best has been 47 in April 2018. “Even now, I am a bit scared to play. The pain was so severe [then]. I was training really hard and I was hoping that this season would be the best I’ve ever had. I was hoping to reach the top 30. I had the tournaments and training planned out with [SRFI Secretary] Cyrus Poncha. And suddenly out of the blue, it just snapped. Everything went blank,” he recalled.

The urge to be on court somehow saw Harinder being appointed coach of the Indian team in the Asian individual championship in Kuala Lumpur in May. “SRFI showed immense trust [in me]. Players were respectful. It was tough [coaching for me]. It was like preparing for board exams. But I enjoyed every bit of it,” he said.

At 30, Harinder knows the going will invariably be difficult. He is looking at the next Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games before considering calling it quits. “It is going to be very tough. [But] If I stay physically fit and mentally motivated, I may even reach the top 30. It is just that I have to keep playing and keep pushing myself,” he said.