Saurav Ghosal relies on ‘one game at a time’ mantra to succeed at Birmingham-Sports News, Firstpost


World No. 15 Saurav Ghosal, who is going through a purple spot in his career with a singles title at the Malaysian Open last year followed by an impressive semi-final appearance at the Tournament of Champions in England in 2022, talks about his upcoming preparations for GTC 2022.

Kolkata: India’s squash team has gone from strength to strength at the Commonwealth Games over the past decade as the team clinched one gold and two silvers in the last two editions of the event quadrennial. It is considered a comeback given that the Indian squash team made their first appearance at the event in 2010 at Delhi CWG.

It was 2014 that Glasgow proved to be the breakthrough year for the Indians in the discipline as a young pair of Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa won gold in women’s doubles while Saurav Ghosal missed out on a bronze medal finishing fourth. The trio did India proud again at Gold Coast 2018 by winning silver in women’s and mixed doubles, with Deepika having her name on both medals.

Birmingham CWG 2022 now look like their strongest claim to turn silver into gold as the experienced trio return to the event as world champions in mixed and women’s doubles.

Current world No. 15 Ghosal, who is going through a purple stain in his career with a singles title at the Malaysian Open last year followed by an impressive semi-final appearance at the Tournament of Champions in England in 2022 , spoke with First post before the CWG and gave us a glimpse of his endless hunger for more success.


At 35, you’ve been in fine form over the past year, which has allowed you to end your three-year drought to the singles title. You also reached the semi-finals of the Tournament of Champions in England followed by the double Mixed World title. Do you think you arrived in Birmingham in good shape?

SG: I think the last 12 months have gone pretty well. I played at a very high level. I had a bit of a setback in March with a groin injury, which set me back a bit. But I was able to recover quite well and after that to reach the semi-finals of the Tournament of Champions and win the world title in mixed doubles was pretty decent. I also had a very good training block over the last six-seven weeks, which puts me in a good position. Hopefully I can put everything together and perform at the Commonwealth with strong performances over the next two weeks.

Speaking more of the singles, the 2018 edition didn’t go to plan after the highs of 2014 when you nearly won the gold medal. Do you think it will affect you this time?

SG: Last time was not great as I had to exit early (second round exit against Jamaica’s Christopher Binnie). It was a huge setback. But that’s how sport is, things don’t always go the way you want. But I was happy with how I reacted after that winning (silver in) mixed doubles with Dipika. Obviously it’s a new opportunity in four years and I want to make the most of it and I feel capable of doing that in the race for the gold medal. I’m not someone who looks sad while the process is going on, whether it’s redemption or not.

Is there a change of approach this time to singles to go the distance?

SG: Actually the approach is similar to any other tournament but obviously the Commonwealth Games are a different beast so to speak. I will try to take it one day at a time. It’s pretty easy to look too far ahead and fall into a trap, which I did in the last Commonwealth. The singles didn’t go according to plan so it’s important that I focus on one trick and the opponent in front of me at the same time and pass the toss as finely as possible and put myself in contention for medal rounds.

2020 has been a tough time for squash players in India as restarting the game has become difficult with the game being played in an enclosed space. Plus, squash not being on the Olympic list meant there was never really a rush to pick it up. Surely it takes time for a player like you who is on the wrong side of the 30s, but you seem to have reacted well.

SG: I feel like I’ve always been one of those people who only tries to control the things he can. I try not to worry and stress about things that are out of my control and that’s also how I live my life. It was obviously not easy but you have to make the best of the situation. Luckily things fell into place a bit, which is great and hopefully I can continue to grow.

Speaking of your doubles partnership with Dipika, this has many fans excited as both of you are reigning mixed doubles world champions. Is CWG unfinished business for both of you since you had to settle for the silver medal?

SG: Dipika and I are a very strong couple. We both play an entertaining and at the same time very effective brand of squash. We like to play together and we have a lot in our arsenal to draw from and react accordingly in game situations. We know and believe that we have within us the ability to win gold.

Again, when it comes to execution, we have what it takes to be very strong mentally; be persistent about the things we want to achieve. We both want to turn that gold medal into a reality and we are focused on that and working to be consistent enough over a longer period to achieve that.

But don’t you think as defending champions you now have a target on your back, especially with the English pair of Alison Waters and Adrian Waller also in the mix, who you beat to the title?

SG: I don’t think we’re an absolute favourite. Of course, we are among the favorites and I think it’s a privilege. But that will not be achieved if we continue to play the high level squash that we have both played together this season. We both know that if we go there it will be hard to stop and we want to get there as quickly as possible which takes a lot of hard work especially with the entertaining brand of squash we both play.

The situation of squash in India is somewhat similar to that of tennis. We have achieved great feats in doubles, but the major singles titles are not here yet. What makes Indian doubles squash teams so great?

SG: I’m not so sure, to be honest. I think we’ve done well in singles over the past few years, but obviously, as we’re the defending champions in doubles and mixed doubles, we haven’t yet achieved that in singles as well. Hopefully we will get there very soon in singles. Still, honestly, I don’t know what worked for us in duplicate.

I can say that for Deepika and me, on both sides, we are very dangerous for our opponents. We understand how each of us has to be protected with the game patterns we have to work with and we execute that effectively and consistently, which I believe is our secret to winning.

To think about it, every country has its particular way of playing squash with Egypt being the leader of the game. Do you think the culture is in India now with the game slowly gaining popularity?

SG: It’s true, in squash each major country has its own identity. Egyptians, Australians and even Indians have a certain identity in their game and that’s good. The more you can adapt to this identity, the more difficult and unpredictable you become for your opponent. It becomes harder for your adversary to break you and pull you away from that identity. I think it’s really something that India has already developed a kind of identity and culture where people can look at us and say they’re going to play a brand of squash that’s entertaining and exciting to watch.

The current CWG squad also had a surprise inclusion as the youngest member of 14-year-old Anahat Singh, who was selected after strong performances in trials. How interesting is his presence in the team for all of you?

SG: I think it’s great, she has a lot of potential and has done really well to integrate the team. She has talent in abundance and is mentally and physically very strong. I saw in her this thirst for learning and success. It is important that everyone around her, including the federation and the media, understands that she is only 14 and needs to be well educated.

We can’t burden her with expectations of a medal and let her grow. She has the tool in place to challenge at the top in the future and I hope she does. I wish her all the best in achieving this and want to do my part to help her while she is with me on the team. This is his first Commonwealth Games, in fact, his first senior appearance as well. I hope she enjoys the time and experience she gets here and that being with all of us gives her the experience she needs to grow. And watching the best players around the world should give him the impetus to grow.

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