Vikram Malhotra eyeing a spot in India’s 2018 Commonwealth Games team

The 27-year-old Indian is in the quarter-finals of the on-going Jio-19th Asian individual squash championship here, where he will take on Saurav Ghosal.

Vikram Malhotra (foreground) in action against his compatriot Saurav Ghosal during the men's quarterfinals of the Asian Squash Championship.   -  M. VEDHAN

India’s Vikram Malhotra has been in Connecticut, USA for the last eight years, studying at the Trinity College and later coaching the University’s squash players.

Hardly anybody remembered him, and many believed that he might not play for the country.

“Everybody here [in India] thought I was done and dusted, and given up on the sport. After a good performance in my first year, people started to notice. Now I am funded by Sport Authority of India and getting a lot of help from Squash Rackets Federation of India,” said Vikram, who is keen to play for India at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games and win a medal, in a chat with Sportstar on Friday.

The 27-year-old Indian is in the quarter-finals of the on-going Jio-19th Asian individual squash championship here, where he will take on Saurav Ghosal, the second seed, later in the evening.

“I am looking forward to the clash,” said Vikram, seeded 10th and world ranked 70. “The last time we met was during the 2016 National championship semi-finals, where I lost to him 11-9 in the fifth game.”

Excerpts from the interview:

On shifting base from India (Mumbai in his case) to USA...

I realised very quickly that I was running out of players [to play with]. And I had a lot of friends there (USA). At the same time, education was very important for me. It was a conscious decision that I don’t regret.

Generally, Indian squash players who go to study abroad, don’t pursue the sport professionally. Why is that?

I don’t think so. You get several opportunities there; it is what you make out of them that matters. In terms of resources, there are plenty. It is true that not many players have come out and become professionals. It is because of their personal choice. May be, they’ve lost motivation. Because for me, to come up and play here (in Chennai) has been amazing. In America, I am getting enough from the sport; the access to the courts, the facilities I use... Players, who are in the top 40 to play with occasionally. [Things] I wouldn’t have got it here (in India).

Is there a lack of depth in Indian squash?

Not at all. I think this is the strongest team here. Saurav [Ghosal] is ranked 30 in the world. Harinder [Pal Sandhu] is there, he was ranked in the top 60 once. I am there. There is Mahesh [Mangaonkar]. When have we had players like this before. Never ever. There is Velavan [Senthilkumar], Aditya Japtap, Ramit Tandon (now in USA).

On squash infrastructure in India...

It is important to have a squash academy in every metropolitan city. It is the bare minimum. Here, everyone is doing their own thing. There should be at least 15 courts each at different cities. They don’t have to be members. Make them accessible. Right now it is not.

Of late, lot of coaches are training in USA, will it be the next big thing in squash after Egypt?

The fact is USA is pumping in lot of money into squash and attracting the best of coaches. Some of the coaches, David Palmer, former men’s world no.1, Martin Heath, former men’s world no.4, former men’s world champion Thierry Lincou, they are all coaching some universities or the other. And in and around America, you have Rodney Martin (former men’s world champion), Rodney Eyles (former men’s world champion), Peter Nicol (former men’s world no.1). And there is Amir Wagih, one of the greatest coaches to come out of Egypt, now in DC. May be in a few years, USA will do well. Definitely, America is doing all the right things. It’s up to the players now.

On coaching the students at Trinity College...

I enjoy coaching. Coaching gives you a high if a player actually does what you teach. I don’t see [studying and coaching in USA] as lost time. I am ready and keen to get a medal for India at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games . There is nothing like playing for India.