World Junior Squash C’ship: A look at India’s squad members

The Indian squad has six young boys and six girls, most of whom will be playing the World Juniors for the first time.

The Indian squash squad with coaches and actress Parvathi Nair.   -  Amal John

The World Junior Squash championship kicks off in Chennai on Wednesday and the Indian squad will be looking to make a mark. A squad of six boys and six girls, they’re quite young, with most of them playing in the World Juniors for the first time.

Fourteen girls and 16 boys participated in the selection trials here and the best six from boys and girls made the cut. A team of the best in the junior circuit along with the number ones in both boys’ and girls’ — this Indian squad shows promise. It warrants a detailed look at each of the players representing the country.

Ashita Bhengra is the current junior No. 1 in India. She is the only player from Tamil Nadu in the squad. She’s an experienced contender, having won the Indian junior U-19 open in 2017 and finished third in the Asian Juniors 2017.

Since Sunayna Kuruvilla moved to the senior circuit last year, Ashita has occupied the top spot consistently. The 18-year-old is the oldest in the team and her rank and seniority earned her an automatic spot in the squad. She finished as runner-up in last year’s U-19 nationals.

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Ashita will be moving to the U.S. next year to pursue her studies but she plans to continue playing the sport and even represent her country. “In college, we’ll get to play with many different age categories and I’ll be gaining a lot of experience. The college lets you go to a lot of PSA events that’ll get your points up,” she said.

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Many national junior champions have moved to U.S. before and stopped playing professionally. “Everyone has their own choices, not everyone prefers to play it as a profession. But I’m planning to come back because I want to play for my country after I’m back. As long as I get my degree, I don’t think my parents will have a problem.”

Yash Fadte is the junior national No. 1 in the boys’ category. This will be the second time he’ll be playing in the tournament. The 18-year old Goan is a two-time national champion and was the first Indian to win a US junior Open title in December 2017.

Yash comes from a cricketing background. His father, Dilip Fadte and uncle, Namdev Fadte were accomplished cricketers playing for Goa. “After he retired, my father started playing squash for fitness. I used to go with him to the Cricket Club of India and started playing the sport myself around the age of eight,” he said. Yash, who doesn’t train under a coach, is mentored by former Indian players.

Advait Adik will be taking part in the World Juniors for the first time. The 16-year-old who hails from Mumbai used to be a national level swimmer before he started playing squash. His brother Aryaman Adik, 19, was the national No. 1 in the U-17 category. Advait came second at the nationals in 2017 and played in the Asian Juniors last year.

‘Love the game’

Veer Chotrani is the son of former national champion Manish Chotrani. The 16-year-old from Mumbai started playing at the age of four and this will be his second at the World Juniors. “It was my father who introduced me to sport at a very young age. I’ve played ever since and now I love the game,” he said.

Utkarsh Baheti is the current U-17 national champion. The 17-year-old from Jaipur started playing squash professionally at the age of 14. He is drawn against Asad Ullah Khan of Pakistan in the first round of the tourney.

Rahul Baitha is 17 years old and will be representing India for the fifth time. He finished fourth in last year’s U-19 nationals.

Sankalp Anand is ranked third in India in the U-17 category. The 16-year old from Delhi won the HCL Junior Squash Open last year and came third in Gymkhana classic Junior and Senior Championship in the same year.

Yoshna Singh is the current national champion in U-17 category and also its top ranked player. The 15-year-old started playing squash at the age of 11 after starting off with tennis. Apart from learning from her training partners, she also is mentored by senior player Abhinav Sinha.

Aishwarya Khubchandani is the youngest player in the Indian squad. The 14-year-old from Mumbai finished second in the U-15 category at the nationals last year. She started playing squash professionally in 2014 and also came second in the Cologne U-15 Junior Cup.

Sanya Vats started playing the sport four years ago and came third in the U-17 nationals last year. She has represented India before on three occasions. She has showcased consistent performances in the last year winning the ISA Junior Open and HCL Junior Squash Open, along with a few other tournament victories. She is full of confidence and believes she can make it to the quarterfinals.

Ananya Dabke started as a swimmer but shifted squash at the age of seven. The 15 year-old goes to the same academy as national players Saumya Karki and Aishwarya Bhattacharya, who she says inspired her. She won the Dutch Junior Open last year. Ananya, playing for the first time in the World Juniors, faces Hong Kong’s Sin Yuk Chang in the opening round. “She is a really good player but not unbeatable. I think I can do well and at least reach the third round,” she said.

Jania Singh finished on the podium in the U-15 nationals in 2016. The 15-year-old from Chandigarh started playing squash because of her father and brother, who play the sport. Her brother Inderjit Singh is also a national player and is ranked eighth in the national U-19 category.