Friday 1 February 2008

Sub-continental coverage reflects Indian success

Indian number one Joshna ChinappaThe recent successes of Indian players in the men's and women's game has been reflected in the growing amount of media coverage the sport is receiving there. While Pakistan has always been one of squash's heartlands, its neighbour has not had the strength in depth within the professional game to compete at the same level.

This now looks set to change, with a crop of young players inspiring squash players across India ...

Dipika Pallikal is celebrated in the India Express, after winning the recent British Open under-17 title. The teenager made rapid progress in 2007, halving her ranking to begin 2008 at number 64 in the WISPA list.

Both Pallikal and 6-time Indian national champion Joshna Chinappa are recipients of funding from the Mittal Champions Trust - an organisation established by Lakshmi Mittal, Chairman and Chief Executive of the Mittal Steel Company, to support and fund talented sportspersons.

The Indian team at the Men's World Team Championships 2007High-profile support and sponsorship brings greater recognition for squash players the India media than it does in Europe.

Ritwik Bhattacharya continues to attract coverage in the newspapers for his behaviour both on and off the squash court. The England-based player has won 6 PSA tour titles to date, and has a high-profile sponsorship deal with Police sunglasses, which places him in the same company - but I would hazard not the same earning bracket - as David Beckham.

He also appears in the Times of India after it was announced that he had split with his actress girlfriend Neha (perhaps the Beckham comparisons are not that wide of the mark ...).

However it is Saurav Ghosal - currently based in Leeds - who is currently most successful on the PSA tour, lying at 47 in the January rankings. Ghosal's success also brought him the prestigious Arjuna Award in 2007.

The Arjuna Award is given by the government of India to recognise outstanding achievement in National sports. The award carries a cash prize of Rs 300,000. A report on this from The Telegraph, based in Calcutta, can be read here.

India's recent strong showing in the Men's World Team Championships, where they eventually finished 8th in the tournament, also demonstrated their strength in depth, with Siddarth Suchde joining Bhattacharya and Ghosal in a memorable 3-0 win over Wales.

At grass-roots level, the country has been receiving the benefit of experience. Last year's visit by Peter Nicol to India saw the former world champion coach young players at the Otters Club as part of the World Squash Academy.

Saurav GhosalHowever it's not all positive coverage at junior level - NDTV reports that "the problem of age fraud in sports continues to be rampant in India", with protests arising at the recent junior nationals about over-age players.

Promisingly, the growth of squash in India may also help its Olympic aspirations. Randhir Singh, secretary general of the Olympic Council of Asia, was present at the Men's World Team Championships and pledged to try and help make squash an Olympic sport.

With the Commonwealth Games to be held in Delhi in 2010, India is well-positioned to provide the catalyst that could raise the profile of the game on the world stage.

Ranked Indian WISPA members Jan 2008:

Joshna Chinappa 44
Dipika Pallikal 64
Surbhi Misra 158

Ranked Indian PSA members Jan 2008:

Saurav Ghosal 47
Ritwik Bhattacharya 61
Gaurav Nandrajog 133
Harinder Pal Sandhu 134
Naresh Kumar 154
Siddharth Suchde 160
Parth Sharma 179

Times of India
Indian Express
The Telegraph
Indian Squash Professionals
World Squash Academy
Delhi 2010

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