Thursday, 6 December 2007

Power in India for World Teams

Power is back to compete for his countryThe Men's World Team Squash Championships 2007 - currently approaching the knockout stages in Chennai, India - are an incongruous affair for the squash fan.

The strength of competition at the top of the men’s game means that the eventual winners cannot safely be predicted. However, we almost certainly can say which four countries will provide the semi-finalists: England, Egypt, Australia and France.

Certain, that is, unless a member of the Canadian team who - rumour has it - can play a bit, has a say in proceedings ...

I wasn't aware that Jonathan Power was still available to be selected for his country after his retirement - I had read that he had participated in the Canadian Nationals, but thought we had seen the last of him in overseas events.

The dominance of the nations mentioned above means that his form will only really be assessed when he meets a top ten player - probably in the quarter finals.

I last saw Power compete in the Super Series of 2005, where he took Lincou apart 3-0 in one of the most emphatic games of squash I've ever seen. The Frenchman will be glad to see that Power is in the other half of the draw this time.

Whether Power can motivate his team to upset the seedings will depend on him beating (probably) David Palmer in the last eight. The Australian has been in great form, and there will be massive pressure on him to avoid losing to a player who has come out of retirement (even if his opponent is one of the greatest players of all time).

Focussing on an individual in a large team competition appears rather blinkered, but the reality of this event is that it only really gets interesting when the big boys square up from the quarter finals onwards.

That doesn't mean that the early rounds haven't yielded upsets: the Netherlands and India have already progressed further than predicted, with home advantage for the Indians paying off with a fantastic win over Wales.

Given the squash heritage of their neighbours and rivals Pakistan (who themselves are relatively weak compared to previous generations), it would be fantastic for the sport if India could go further and raise the popularity of the sport in the country.

England take the title in 2005Reigning title-holders England cannot call on Peter Nicol any more, and their challenge may depend on the strength of the player called upon to take the third rubber in later rounds.

The Egyptian favourites - in Shabana, Ashour and Darwish - now possess the strength in depth that means whoever they come up against (either Canada or Australia in the last eight) will have a daunting task deciding who plays who.

Hands up who'd refuse a ticket for Ashour v Power?

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