SAG: Joshna clinches squash gold

The India-Pakistan final justifiably enhanced the tension which seemed to influence the players on court forcing the chief referee to caution both the players while urging them to desist from "intentional obstruction and dramatisation of infringements".

Joshna Chinappa, ranked 14 in the world, overcame a robust challenge from Maria Toorpakai Wazir to win the gold.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

Joshna Chinappa survived a bruising, ill-tempered final against Pakistan’s Maria Toorpakai to ensure the 12th SAG Games' women’s individual squash gold here at the R.G. Baruah Sports Complex on Monday. Joshna, currently ranked 14 in the world, overcame a robust challenge from Maria, who is ranked 50, in a match that more often was reduced to excessive gamesmanship and ended up foiling the prospect of a good match.

The India-Pakistan final justifiably enhanced the tension which seemed to influence the players on court forcing the chief referee to caution both the players while urging them to desist from “intentional obstruction and dramatisation of infringements”. The first game was taken by Maria who recovered from being down 4-6 at one point to win it 12-10 in the end.

After the first set, chief referee Munir Shah issued a caution to both the players for “excess interference” as they had been coming at each other too often trying to get the judgments in their favour. “It was such a tough match for me, physically and emotionally. It was a roller-coaster of a match. I am happy that I pulled through and won the gold for India,” Joshna said after the win.

The Indian fine-tuned her game a bit in the second set and produced some excellent drop shots to win it 11-7 and get back in the match.

Maria needed medical attention for a bleeding injury after she collided with Joshna during a rally and got hit on the forehead by the Indian’s racquet. The Pakistani was back with her wound plastered after a 10-minute break but could not push the 7-6 lead she enjoyed then to a win as Joshna made a spectacular return to form after that. “I play on the PSA tour and most of the girls there play fair and clean. And that is the kind of game that I like to play. Unfortunately, today was not a nice game to watch. Personally, I think the opponent was way too aggressive and there was lot of interference when it need not have been that way. We both want to win but there is a way to win as well,” Joshna was critical of the excessive aggression of Maria.

Joshna was in control in the next two sets and produced some clinical finishes to outsmart Maria in the end. Joshna won the third and the fourth sets 11-9 and 11-7 after a fight of 59 minutes that ended Pakistan’s hegemony in South Asian squash. “I knew a lot of stuff would happen on court. I was sort of prepared for that. At times, I let the emotions get the better of me. But for me it was also important to state the facts that were happening on court. I am not someone who is going to keep quiet when nonsense is happening on court,” Joshna said defending the frequent arguments she got into with the chief referee.

The Indian felt that the referees needed to be more stringent with the Pakistani to prevent the match from getting drawn into a physical bout. “I do not want to get into trouble with anything. I am glad there are some international referees here. To be honest, they are more or less fair. The decisions are not bad decisions. I just feel a lot more can be said to a particular player for blocking or interfering in play. It is the referee’s job to tell them to contain themselves. I think if the referees do that more then the game would be played in a better spirit,” Joshna said.

Result: Women’s individual final: Joshna Chinappa (Ind) bt Maria Toorpakai 10-12, 11-7, 11-9, 11-7.