ISLAMABAD  -  Pakistani juniors won three gold medals and one silver medal in the 25th Asian Junior Squash Championship 2018 in Chennai, India, in different categories on Saturday.

Pakistani juniors highly remarkable performance is a very good news from squash after a very long time. It also indicates that Pakistan Squash Federation and Pakistan National Squash Academy are finally doing some serious work and the credit must be given to coaches, players, trainers and federation for the efforts they had put in and it is hoped that this is just the beginning and more international titles will come thick and fast.

Pakistan Squash Federation President Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, Senior Vice President Air Marshal Shahid Akhtar Alvi, former world squash champion Qamar Zaman, Jansher Khan and others had sent their congratulation messages to the champions and the federation has assured all out support to the juniors in coming events as well.

In the U-15 final, Pakistani youngster Muhammad Hamza Khan was against local lad Arnav Sareen, who was not only enjoying huge crowd support but was also firm favourite to take the title. Hamza, who had played in this year’s British Junior Open semi-finals and is tipped by many as future of Pakistan squash, never looked in any spot of bother and remained focused on his game plan. Hamza started the final as highly underdog but he proved that crowd support means nothing, when it comes to business.

Hamza started the first game on a very high tempo and simply outclassed Sareen. He kept the local lad on the run to all corners of the court and exerted huge pressure and comfortably took the first game 11-6. The second game started with Sareen, backed by massive local crowd, finally settled down and at one stage he was leading. But Hamza never showed any signs of nerves and kept the pressure, which resulted in Hamza’s victory in second game 11-9. Third game also started in highly tense fashion. Sareen was fighting for his life, while Hamza, knowing he couldn’t afford to relax, was putting maximum pressure. Crowd was chanting Sareen’s name and urging him to fight back. The game kept on changing from one way to another, but Hamza never allowed Sareen to keep daylight. After some top class squash, Sareen finally ran out of steam. Hamza taking full advantage of the situation wrapped up the game 11-9 to win the gold medal for Pakistan. As he won the last point, he bowed down to pay thanks to almighty while other Pakistani players along with the coach also rushed into the court and hugged Hamza for doing the impossible for the country.

In the U-17 final, it was highly talented Haris Qasim against Amir Azhar of Malaysia. Haris staged one of the greatest comebacks of all times as he came from two games down to win gold medal for Pakistan. The match started on a whirlwind fashion as both players displayed world class squash. It was a seesaw battle in the first game. Haris had chances to take the first game but he committed too many mistakes, which cost him the game as he lost first game 10-12.

Second game also started on a high pace and soon Haris was trailing and looking a bit tired. Amir took full control of the game and won the game 11-8. Looking down and out, Haris entered the third game with new confidence and showed why he is rated so highly among his peers. Haris fought gallantly and took the third game 11-9. He simply outclassed Amir in the 4th game and won the game 11-5. Amir showed tremendous fighting skills in the 5th game, but Haris kept the pressure and won the 5th game 11-9 to cap a memorable day for Pakistan.

In the U-19 final, it was Abbas Zeb against Hong Kong’s Chung Yat Long. Abbas displayed awesome skills, tremendous squash and simply thrashed much experienced Chung in straight games, winning 11-4, 11-3 and 11-4 to give Pakistan third gold medal of the day.

It could have been icing on the cake, had Anas Ali Shah could also won gold in U-13 category but he lost to host nation’s Yuvraj Wadhwani. Anas showed fighting skills and determination before losing the first game 11-13. He bounced back to win second game 11-5, before losing third game 6-11 and 4th game 10-12 and had to settled for a silver medal.



Mohsin ALi