In Nicol David’s absence, Malaysia out to prove a point

Former champion, Mohd. Nafiizwan Adnan, who holds the world ranked of 28 and is the third seed, made it very clear that he is here to win. “I’ve come here to win. But first, I will have to beat my friend (and team-mate) Yuen Chee Wern in the quarterfinals.”

Major S. Maniam (left) , Director of Coaching, Squash Rocket Association of Malaysia and team’s head coach Peter Genever interact with the players at the Indian Squash Academy on Monday.   -  R. Ragu

The best thing about the Malaysian squash team, here for the Jio-19th Asian individual squash championship, is its extensive support staff.

It has brought a physiologist, physiotherapist, performance analyst and strength and conditioning coach for the tournament, which begins later this week.

“The Government has been of huge support to us,” gushed Maj. S. Maniam, Director of Coaching, Squash Rackets Association of Malaysia.

Maniam is a familiar figure, who has served Indian squash for 14 years from 2002. In Malaysia too, he is in a similar role—and he says that more than the women’s, Malaysia is pinning its hopes on the men’s side.

“Our women’s team is more or less a junior team barring Rachael Mae Arnold, seeded eighth. Of course, eight-time world champion Nicol David will be missed. But this is not the first time she is giving the event the skip. Our country’s No.2 Delia Arnold has retired, and the next best player Wee Wern Low is not there. We are preparing our girls for the World junior women’s team championship in Tauranga (New Zealand) in July this year. As far as the men, this is pretty much the best we’ve got,” he said.

Former champion, Mohd. Nafiizwan Adnan, who holds the world ranked of 28 and is the third seed, made it very clear that he is here to win. “I’ve come here to win. But first, I will have to beat my friend (and team-mate) Yuen Chee Wern in the quarterfinals.”

All eyes will be on the reigning World boys’ champion Ng Eain Yow. According to Maniam, the men’s section will be interesting. “Max (Lee) and (Annie) Au are favourites. But Saurav (Ghosal) and Nafiizwan can spring surprises,” he said.

Peter Genever, National head coach of Malaysian squash, will complete five years in December this year. The 43-year-old felt that the Asian meet will be a “valuable lesson for our young girls.”

Genever said, Asian squash is on the rise at a time when England and Australia are on the decline. “There is a change in the world order. There are older guys in England and Australia. There is no succession plan,” said the Englishman, while adding that Asians have been impressive on the World Tour in recent times.

Maniam said Malaysia is prepared to give its best. “Our work ethic is good, we are focused on the job. Our support staff has been great. I like that,” he said.

According to Maniam, Malaysian squash is facing a problem of dearth of quality coaches as most of the good ones have migrated for better coaching pastures. “It is a setback. But I would like to address the issue. In five years time, we will have good home grown coaches,” he said.