The 3rd HCL International Squash tournament kicked off in full swing on the 3rd of October, 2018 in Shiv Nadar University’s very own Indoor Sports Complex. Since its genesis in 2016, the event has grown to become a five-star national circuit event in the Squash Racket Federation on India (SRFI) calendar and even features in the Asian Squash calendar as a silver category event. The games followed the knockout format and draw type. Playoffs were between the top 8. Categories in the game included under 11, 13, 15, 17 for both boys and girls and under 19 for boys. The award entails prize money worth a generous sum of around Rs 6 lakh.
Leaving the objectivity of the scores and the cut throat nature of sporting events aside, we took a peek behind the curtain to look at what made these sportspersons what they are today. Proud mother of two squash players in the tournament, Dr. Tanvi describes her experience. Anxiously peering into the notice board outside the squash court she said, “I’ve got two kids, two boys, one is nine and the other one is eleven. Both of them play squash. It’s been almost three years now.” Her twinkling eyes and smile reflected the sentiments of a proud, yet a slightly nervous parent. When asked how her children came to play this known yet unconventional sport, she said, “my husband plays. In fact, he started playing just 5-6 years back, so he’s got both the kids into it.”
Good sportsmanship means knowing that it is a game, that we are only as good as our opponents and at the end of the day, a good sportsman must always give his hundred percent. Tanmay Gupta from Delhi seemed rather dejected as he sat in a slump on one corner of the stairs after losing his first match in the knockout stages. “I started playing squash from class six during games period. I feel very good, it was so nice to play with such talented people. I played my match and I lost, but there is always next year.”
One particular talent, not much bigger than her racket stood out in particular, displaying greater tenacity on the court than those twice her age and size. Her name was Khushboo, from Uttar Pradesh, accompanied by Mr. Jeevan Singh from Jaipur. “I started playing when I was seven years old”, she told me. “Her father is also a coach”, Mr. Singh punctuated from the side in an effort to coax the shy little girl to speak up. When asked why her father likes the sport she said, “This sport is the most unique. He thinks this is something I can do very well in.” A proud Mr. Singh told me with a smile, “she represented India in the Asian Junior Championship recently on the 29th”, bringing a slight blush to the little girl’s face. “We can no more say that squash is an unknown sport. Nowadays is getting popular. India does prefer cricket but slowly, squash is being played in private schools and universities. Now we can get world-class facilities in squash. Things are developing.” The duo talked about the inauguration of the Rajasthan Squash Academy on the 24th of September and how the sensibilities of people are turning more and more towards the wide spectrum of the relatively lesser played sports today.
Mrs. Shefali Gupta from Ludhiana also had both her sons competing in the tournament. “I’ve got both my boys, one is seven years old and one is ten years old. Luckily, their father also plays squash so that’s how they got interested in the game. This is their third tournament. They’ve been playing for 9 months to a year.” When questioned if she believes her sons will perform well after such little time on the court, she beamed a proud smile and told me what every encouraging parent should firmly resolve, capturing the essence of sportsmanship beautifully, “I am confident that they will play well, that they will do their best, that’s it. Winning or losing is something else, but I’m sure they will do their best.” Mrs. Gupta also expressed her ardent appreciation for the participant kits. “It shows HCL has put their heart and soul into this competition. Usually, they just give a t-shirt, they don’t even care about the size, but here they’ve packed everything. It’s so nice to see. It’s a feel-good factor for the participants.”
We spoke to Amartya from SNU, IRGS, first year, someone a little closer to home. He told us that his squash journey was still brewing, he took to the sport a mere two months ago, upon his advent to university. “It’s more about the experience rather than winning for me. It’s my first competitive experience. It doesn’t matter if I win or lose.” The appeal of playing the in a comfortable air-conditioned, enclosed rooms won him over. “Initially I was somebody who used to swim. I was an inter school swimmer. I was looking for something to do and play, so squash was something I thought I can learn and grow to like.”
The prize distribution ceremony is scheduled on the 7th of October, from 1:45 PM, onwards.