The courts were busy bustling with people of different Asian nationalities, most there to support their kith and kin or their students. It was the 25th Junior Asian Individual Squash Championship with ten countries fighting it out for the title.
Venue – The Indian Squash Academy, Chennai, India.
This is not the first time ISA has played host to an International World Championship. India has hosted this premier junior event, and on all the previous occasions too in 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2009, the tournament was sponsored in Chennai. Except for 1997, the rest were all organised at the ISA. This time the junior championship included the Under-17, 15 and 13 categories for boys and girls apart from the U-19 age category. The best of junior talents from 163 players took part in this four-day championship.
The ISA left no stone unturned to provide a world-class facility and hospitality for the players. Over the last 18 years since its existence, it has only bettered, with 62 national champions in various categories produced by the ISA.
Ramachandran, the patron of Squash Rackets Federation of India (SRFI) and ex-president of the World Squash Federation, is the man behind ISA.
“In the yesteryears, you had to be the member of a club to be able to play squash”, says Ramachandran to The Bridge. “We had formed the Tamil Nadu Squash Rackets Association, but we realised there was no public court to play squash freely,” reminisces Ramachandran.
The association requested the then government to give them land and they were able to build three squash courts in 2000 with financial support from the India Cements limited and Squash Rackets Federation.
During his tenure as the vice president of the Asian Squash Federation, the world junior event was assigned to SRFI.
But to hold the tournament, it was mandatory to have a minimum of six courts. So the association asked for more land, and that is how the ISA got 4 more courts.
Today, the Academy consists of two complexes; one with 3 glass back rainbow courts and the other a state of the art centre with 4 glass back rainbow courts that are convertible to 2 doubles courts.
The ASB 4-sided glass court, enables television coverage from all angles, with a seating capacity of 500. All these courts have been imported from ASB Germany. The academy is at par with any world-class squash court and is one of the best in Asia.
Ramachandran credits the success of the ISA to “a team effort” from players and parents, backed by coaches led by Maj. S. Maniam (SRFI consultant coach) and Cyrus Poncha (National coach) among others like Hariom Tripathy and Balamurugan. “Today all the coaches of the country have been trained at this academy,” says Ramachandran.
Cyrus Poncha joined the academy in 2001 and has been a backbone of the academy since then. Maj. Maniam, a foreign coach and the director of coaching of Asian Squash based in Malaysia, joined the academy a year after him. He was crucial in putting out a structure for the academy.
“From 2002 we have had a systemized structured of training at the academy,” says Cyrus. “Today, the results are evident with the national champions the academy has produced”.
Cyrus gives credit to the SDAT and the state government for the cooperation it has rendered to the academy from its conception. “By 2009 we had added a swimming pool and a gym block to the ISA. The academy has been a great stepping stone for the India Squash,” says Cyrus.
Malaysian coach Andrew who accompanied the squash players from the country for the championship says, “The facility is undoubtedly one that meets International standards. We have had no complaints about the organisation or the hospitality.”
With most top Indian players like Saurav Ghosal, Joshna Chinappa, Gaurav Nandrajog, Parthiban, Ramit Tandon, Naresh Kumar, W. Anwesha Reddy, Cyril Kuhn, Karan Malik, Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu, Dipika Pallikal and Parth Sharma having trained at this venue, the main aim of ISA is to produce a World class champion.
“This is our main aim,” says Ramachandran.