Squash is one of the racquet sports in which India has witnessed quite a few ups and downs and it is yet to reach the masses.
From the likes of Saurav Ghoshal, Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal to the likes of Abhay Singh and Anahat Singh, we have come a long way.
The Bridge sat down with national level coach Gautam Das to understand the growth of squash in India.
A fifth-generation squash player, Gautam was always fascinated by the sport and especially the coaching part of it.
“Squash is in our family and it has been here for generations now. My father is still a coach and my grandfather and great grandfather all were involved with squash,” said Gautam.
“As a kid when I started playing squash, I was always more intrigued about coaching as India had an orthodox way of coaching then. That is what pulled me towards squash coaching,” said Gautam.
Squash - Still a long way to go
“We still haven’t reached the general public. It is an expensive sport. For badminton or cricket, you just need to have the equipment and you can play. But if you have to play squash, you need a basic glass court to play at least,” said Gautam.
Talking about perception of the general public, Gautam explained, "The general perception among the masses is not great. Two major reasons behind it are lack of awareness and the expensive nature of the game.”
Gautam, who takes care of the Eastern zone as coach for Squash Rackets Federation of India, believes that media and more success stories can help squash reach the masses.
“I always tell people that this sport has more scope of growth than anything else. In any other sport due to competition, you have to go through multiple levels to reach the top but in squash, it is easy. Due to less competition, you can play at national level more easily than any other sport and we can become number 1 in this sport,” said Gautam.
India currently has only 5,000 registered players as per SRFI. There are a lot of players who play it as a hobby but professionally it is a very small number.
Squash Coaching Journey
"What drew me towards coach was the lack of innovative coaching in India. No system existed. You just ran and played," Gautam said.
Indian players are always known to train in Egypt or under foreign coaches. Top players Joshna Chinappa, Dipika Pallika and Saurav Ghoshal have been training under foreign coaches for years.
"When Major Maniam from Malaysia joined as consulting coach for India, I learnt a lot from him," Gautam said.
Gautam completed his level two and level three courses of squash coaching while playing on the national circuit and started taking coaching professionally in 2006.
Bronze at Junior Worlds Proudest Moment
“The best moment as per me was the bronze medal at World Junior championships in Doha in 2012. It was a very proud moment for me as I was part of the coaching staff along with Cyrus Poncha. There are many moments but this one is closest to my heart,” Gautam beamed.
Gautam has been coaching for 18 years and has coached at every level. Talking about his proudest moment, Gautam said, "Any day when my players win an international tournament, it is the proudest moment for me. Commonwealth medals of Joshna Chinappa, Dipika Pallikal and Saurav Ghoshal have been one of the happiest moments for me.”
Future of Squash in India
“We need more coaches and more awareness through social media about Squash. We need more success stories in squash to take it to more people. I think there is a lot of scope in Squash," said Gautam.
HCL and Squash Rackets Federation of India is promoting squash in India extensively with the Asian Junior team championships concluded in Chennai recently.
“My goal is to make squash the main sport of India. We need more supporters like HCL. Squash Rackets Federation of India and Sports Authority of India is doing great work and I really hope to see India as one of the top nations in squash,” concluded Gautam.