Press Reports 2001

 
 

A RED LETTER DAY FOR INDIAN SQUASH
(26-1-2001)



Padma Shree Award Winner MR. Khalid Ansari (President, SRAM)

Raju Chainani 

There was a double bonus for Indian squash in the President of India's Republic Day honours list. 16 times women's national champion BHUVANESHWARI KUMARI and the President of the Squash Rackets Association of Maharashtra, KHALID ANSARI, have been awarded the Padma Shri, the equivalent of an OBE. 

Bhuvaneshwari hung up her racket seven years ago after an amazing run at the Nationals which she won sixteen times in a row. "People told me I had equalled Heather McKay's record but I can never think of being talked about in the same breath as Heather. She was my role model and the greatest player women's squash has seen", said the soft-spoken Delhi-based Bhuvaneshwari. 

She hails from a sporting family. Her brother Yogendra (Tubby) was a former India number 2. Later he was the country's national coach and is currently India's only international referee. Younger sister Sohini has been a national level tennis player and was also runner-up in the women's squash nationals. Bhuvaneshwari's father, Yashwant Singh, is widely respected as one of the best administrators in sport. He has been a Davis Cup selector and is presently working with the Indian Olympic Association. 

KHALID ANSARI is Chairman of the MID-DAY Group of Publications. His frank and hard-hitting style have become part of lore. He had a brief stint in the Gulf where he was Editor of the Khaleej Times. Ansari is a fitness freak. He plays squash regularly. Two years ago he took over as President of the Squash Rackets Association of Maharashtra. Ansari and his team have concentrated their efforts on junior development. Sponsors like Air-India and Rabobank have come forward and the juniors have never had it so good. The game has expanded into the suburbs.

At the national level, Maharashtra won five of the seven junior titles. The seniors did equally well, winning the Inter-State championship. The public court dream should soon become a reality. Efforts are on in several directions to build eight to ten such courts in the next couple of years. All this and more has come about under the leadership of Ansari, a man dedicated to sport and one who has never been afraid to take on establishment.

Courting Successes and Building Careers

 

 Article by The Express MAGAZINE, Mumbai October 21, 2001.

Mahendra Agarwal

Every game needs icons to survive. Equally, no game can last long if it fails to get its fair share of monetary gains and good administration.

Squash, like all other indoor games, over the years has been confined to the four walls of a few private clubs scattered across the country. The game’s mere presence was threatened a couple of years ago in Maharashtra after the State Government refused to recognize its governing body when it came to identifying the winners of State’s highest sports title – Shiv Chhatrapati Award. 

And one cannot squarely blame the Government for its ignorance because the governing body – the Squash Racquet Association of Maharashtra (SRAM), had hardly done anything for the game. Till 1989, there was no tournament held for the professionals. Then arrived a man who changed it all.

 

Mahendra Agarwal, a builder by profession, developed an addiction for the game which he started playing only at the age of 29. Earlier, he had never attempted any other game. “To cure my back ailment, I was advised by the doctor to take up any game which needed a player to bend very often. Hotel Leela Kempinski had just come up and it only had squash on offer. I took up the game,” said Agarwal, when The Indian Express caught up with him at his Andheri office.

The rest, as they say is history. Agarwal has been the driving force in creating several landmarks in the history of Indian squash. After having learnt the basics from marker Riaz Mohammed, who turned professional later, Agarwal decided to delve deeper and organized the first ever tournament for the professionals in the state in 1993. Since then, he has been instrumental in conducting 39 tournaments, sponsoring most of them himself.

Agarwal, joined by some like-minded associates, set up the Indian Squash for Professionals (ISP), with the sole aim of looking after the needs of professionals. Unlike SRAM, ISP started making inroads immediately. In the same year, ISP decided to sponsor Arif Paul – the first player among the three, whose expenses borne by ISP for a year. Paul went to the United States on a scholarship, thanks to his squash skills, and is currently working with a bank in Germany.

Deepali Anvekar followed next. Her term was extended later by another two years. ISP went further by adopting Priyanka Yadav, daughter of then Additional Commissioner of Police, SPS Yadav.

While the players were benefiting, ISP ensured that the game was developed all round. In 1997, Rehmat Khan, coach of ex-world champion Jahangir Khan was invited to train the markers. He was also given a two year contract worth Rs.2 Lakh  to work as the director of coaching. A separate coaching camp for ladies was also organized.

After ISP, came its next biggest venture. With the world getting hooked on to the Internet, ISP too joined the band wagon by its launching its site – www.ispsquash.com , an encyclopedia on squash complimenting the newsletter Pro Squash published every three months.

Building a database has not been easy so far. Apart from daily updates for the website, compiling the newsletter is no mean task. “I used to get it done from outside but that was costing me a lot. That is when I decided to learn the basics myself. And after six months, I can now update the site myself,” reveals Agarwal.

Agarwal’s association with Khalid Ansari, chairman of the Mid-Day Multimedia Ltd. and squash writer, late Raju Chainani, got him the ideas to fuel his passion of making squash popular.

Ansari managed to persude him to come into the SRAM fold as its joint-secretary, a post he holds currently after former president Vaman Apte failed to do so far two years. The Khalid Ansari – Chainani partnership was also instrumental in getting the State’s recognition for SRAM last year. And it was Ansari’s dream concept of public squash courts that decided Agarwal’s next major course of action.

Last month saw the opening of the first ever-public squash court at the Andheri Sports Complex and the ball has just begun to roll. Another one has come up at Pimpri-Chinchwad near Pune, while plans are afoot for the third one. Besides, the Police Gymkhana has agreed to give their courts to the SRAM members for stipulated hours.

Having brought up the game significantly, Agarwal has gotten over Chainani’s demise quickly to persist with the rejuvenated SRAM’s purpose of spreading the game. “We have broken the monopoly of the earlier four city clubs – Otters Club, Bombay Gymkhana, Khar Gymkhana and the Cricket Club of India, and have incorporated as many as 13 affiliates so far. The game has go to the interiors of Maharashtra with courts at Kolhapur, Sangli, Aurangabad, Solapur, Satara, Nanded, Osmanabad and Ahmednagar,” says Agarwal.

Agarwal’s love and focused determination has clearly been a rolling stone in the game’s history over the last decade and his achievements certainly ensures a bright future for the sport.

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