Saurav Ghosal: 'Risk cannot be completely eliminated in any sport'

While not many sportspersons have spoken out against racism, Saurav Ghosal believes that it is a deeper societal issue than simply about individual instances.

A seven times Asian Games medallist and a record 13-times national champion, Saurav Ghosal has been India’s poster boy on the world stage in the gruelling sport.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

It’s been prevalent in world sports for a long time, but the issue of racism has hit close to home recently. While not many sportspersons have spoken out against racism, squash champion Saurav Ghosal believes that it is a deeper societal issue than simply about individual instances.

“The fact that you have this movement happening confirms that it does exist. There is no smoke without a fire, not just in the sporting world but in all walks of life. I think it’s basically a question of inequality. Not everyone does it and it’s not right to generalise a community or country but everyone of us, no matter how righteous we think we are, is guilty of it at some point in our lives,” Ghosal was honest enough to admit in an exclusive chat with Sportstar.

“Maybe we don’t realise it at that moment but in retrospect, if we think about it, we would have said or done something to propagate the concept. I think it’s important that we all, at an individual level, understand that it shouldn’t matter where someone comes from. Each individual needs to be given a fair chance,” he added.

Saurav Ghosal and Joshna Chinappa, winners of the men's and women's titles respectively in the Senior National Squash Championship in Chennai in February.   -  FILE PHOTO/ M. VEDHAN

 

The world No. 13 has been at home in Kolkata for the last three months since his return from England on March 12, and while the rest of the country has been battling COVID-19, Ghosal, also witnessed the devastation caused by Cyclone Amphan in May.

For almost two weeks after the cyclone, there was no internet connectivity in most parts of Kolkata. Phone networks were down for four days. This crisis helped Ghosal get a new perspective to life and find positives in uncertain times.

READ: David Palmer: Saurav Ghosal can enter top six

“I stepped out for groceries a couple of days ago and it was almost depressing. It was nothing like what this city has ever seen. Basic necessities like electricity took days to get back. The central city is getting better but in the harder-hit suburbs and places like the Sunderbans, it will take much longer,” Ghosal said.

Three months has been the longest that the Indian squash player has ever stayed in one place “since his school days”.

A seven times Asian Games medallist and a record 13-times national champion, the 33-year old has been India’s poster boy on the world stage in the gruelling sport.

READ: 'We need six to eight weeks to return stronger'

“Not just home, I don’t remember being in any one city for three months at a stretch. That’s the thing that has changed the most for me. Over the last 15 -16 years we have been living a different life and now suddenly we are forced to change it. The other big thing is being away from squash (for such an extended period). I haven’t done that unless I have been severely injured, which has been twice in my life. Even then, your mind is trying to heal the body but you can’t play. Now, the body is fine and wants to play, but there are extraneous factors (that come in the way),” he admitted.

“But right now, these are good problems to have, these are luxury problems. People are dealing with much tougher things in life. There are worse problems, I would rather ask these questions than ask about how to get food on the table or worrying about someone getting COVID at home. You need to have that perspective,” he added.

Asked if it was a privilege or pressure to be the flagbearer of Indian squash for almost a decade, Ghosal said, it was definitely a privilege.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

 

He agreed he was “itching to get back” to play. “In Kolkata, some sporting facilities like tennis and golf in some of the clubs have opened. I think starting some time next week they are planning to allow people to do some solo squash work. Personally, I don’t think you can completely eliminate the risk in any sport. It’s a question of being able to minimise the risk and make it viable enough.”

“I am going to bide my time for the first two weeks and see how it goes. Also, my grandmother lives with me and has comorbidities, she’s vulnerable and it’s too much of a risk. I know at some point I will have to take them but as of today, when we don’t even know when tournaments are going to start, I don’t think being on court two weeks early is going to make much difference. Also, the PSA is supposed to give us updates on a possible roadmap in the first week of July so that should give a better idea,” he explained.

READ: My mother has played more of a cheerleader role: Saurav Ghosal

Asked if it was a privilege or pressure to be the flagbearer of Indian squash for almost a decade, Ghosal said, it was definitely a privilege.

“I would be stupid if I say it’s too much pressure if I am going to make top-five, it’s what you train for! Why else would I put my body through insane sessions for years and struggle with my mind? I think what David’s (Palmer) saying is that the skills and potential is there, it’s just about converting opportunities and finding a way to make things happen even on bad days. I have made a few quarters but that’s not enough to be World No. 1, which is the ultimate goal. You need to win 4-5 titles a year and make the semis and quarters and finals in others which is something I haven’t done yet and I am aware of it. We are working on it and hopefully it will happen when we start playing again.”