Feb 20, 2004, By Martin Bronstein Â© 2004
interviewed Adrian Ezra in London this January, on the eve of his election
to the CSA Hall of Fame.
Ladies and Gentlemen
… the (nearly) unbeatable Adrian Ezra
Adrian Ezra carved out an admirable record in US college
history: Unbeaten in intercollegiate team play in four years. In fact,
in those four years he suffered just one defeat and that was in an individual
championships ¬ and even now a decade later, he still has dreams about
that one loss.
His record is
all the more remarkable because although Ezra arrived at Harvard University
in 1990 with an enviable squash background ¬ he trained with Jansher
Khan ! ¬ his game was the international soft ball. The college game
in the early nineties was hardball. Different ball, different court, different
bounce, different strategy. Ezra responded by earning the number five
spot on the Harvard team that first year and won every match that season.
Ezra was passionate about squash. This likeable, compact man does everything
with passion. When his time ended at Harvard in 1994 he joined Credit
Suisse First Boston as a trader and the passion for squash was switched
to trading. It is only now, nearly ten years later, that he is back on
the squash court – somewhat broader in the beam – playing for a London
Ezra was born
in Bombay in 1971 and although he made trips to England for the British
Junior Open, he never moved there until he was 18. His gap year was spent
mostly on a squash court in London, where he was surrounded by the best:
Jahanghir was training in Wembley, Jansher could be found every day at
Stripes club in West London – just a few miles from the Ezra home. Adrian
was thinking seriously of a career in the pro ranks, but his father put
an end to those ideas.
‘no way’ and of course it was the right to decision make,”
with Jansher ¬ but there was a cost. “Jansher never played you
unless it was for money, say five pounds a game or best of three and he
would give me seven start. If there was no money, you could beat him,
so you had to put money down. I would win the occasional game but he won
most of the time.
I put a very good drop shot to the front left. I knew he could get it,
but I was right behind him and I was in charge. But he got there and hit
the ball so tight and it bounced a second time in the back corner.. And
I thought to myself ‘that¹s why he¹s world champ’
.That¹s the reason, the ability to get out of trouble ¬ and the
ability not to get bored in the rally.
did everything so well. And at the end of his career he was a different
squash player. And he had this ability to move so gracefully on the court,”
Ezra says, the admiration still in his voice.
In that one
year Ezra crammed in as much coaching as he could, first with Abbas Kaoud,
then six months with Mohammed Yasin, Jansher’s coach, followed by
time with Satinder Bajwa (now head coach at Harvard) and Danny Lee, now
a leading junior coach in England.
It was Harvard
coach Steve Piltch who persuaded Ezra to consider a Harvard education
and Ezra still speaks warmly of his association with Piltch and how much
that coach contributed to his success. In those year 1990-94 Ezra was
to set a record that is still unequalled.
He claims that it took him about six months to feel at
home with the hardball and he never lost a game playing for the Harvard
team. In fact he suffered just one loss in four years of collegiate play.
“It was in the final of the intercollegiate individual and I lost
to Jeremy Fraiberg, who was my best friend at the time. It was 13-all
in the fifth and I got what I thought was a bad call and I could not get
my head around it. I hit two tins and Jeremy won 15-13. To this day it
bugs me. That was 1991. I still dream about it,” he says, half smiling,
He admits that
his first year at Harvard was ‘a nightmare.’ He had been used
to a daily regimen in London of training seven hours a day and at Harvard
it was just two hours a day.
Piltch was unbelievably helpful – I wanted to institute a routine of running
in the morning so Steve would stay at the squash courts two or three nights
a week to show up at seven in the morning on the track. He figured I if
I was doing that he would get the rest of the team running. We would do
200 meter repetitive sprints in the morning and then we would be on the
courts for two hours in the evening. At the time Harvard was easily the
best we won all four years that I was there. But in the last year we won
by the skin of our teeth It was 4-all and Tall Ben-Shachar won 15-14 in
the fifth. The other colleges were gaining on us.”
Ezra also won
softball title four years in a row and each summer would return to India
to play in the nationals. He was the Indian champion six years in a row
and came to an end when Ezra started work as a trader.
end of the fourth year I had forgotten about being a pro player. The college
experience opens you up to so many more things,” Ezra adds. “My
major memory of the my time at Harvard was the camaraderie. No question.
The team was a true team. For four years we hung out together, It was
just fantastic. For me squash had always been an individual sport, but
then it was all about the team.
admit for the first year I had a big problem. Up to then it was all about
you; if you won, it was you; if you lost, it was you. Then suddenly you
are just one of nine. It doesn¹t matter whether you are the worst
or the best, it all matters equally. You need five people to win to win
the match. Also it was hardball, so I learned as much from the number
nine as I did the number one.”
His trips to
India were not all about him:
doing a lot of work in the summer going to India and doing coaching camps
with Raju Chainaini (the late squash journalist). Raju had developed a
junior program and I wanted to put something back into the sport. Those
programs are paying off with some very promising players.”
To the question,
“How do you give up something that has been such an important part
of your life?” Ezra is articulate in his response:
miss the adrenalin? I had that as a trader. For me, you put your mind
to something and that becomes your life. So for a while squash was my
life. Squash is now fun and I enjoy it, but it is not my life. You’ve
got to find that buzz somewhere else and that¹s where you put your
is being used running his own consultancy company in London although there
is still some over for twice weekly sessions with a personal trainer and
playing for the RAC club.
enjoying the squash even though your body has no interest in what the
mind is telling it to do. I am getting back into shape—all I have
to do is stop eating.”
His time at Harvard still looms very large, especially
the input he got from Steve Piltch, Bill Doyle and Dave Fish.
“I got to much from them. I used to bug Fish all
the time. He was the best technical coach I ever came across. I really
miss college squash; it was so much more fun than the other circuits.
There¹s something about a team sport that really gets to you. The
whole university thing in the States is just spectacular; the resources
available to you are unreal.”
On his elevation
to the Hall of fame, he is at a loss for words for a moment or two. And
“It’s a great honour, but other than playing
well I don¹t know what I had done to deserve it. You would think
that the Hall of Fame would be for people who did a lot more, and put
more back into the sport, I guess I had better start doing that now.”
And when Adrian Ezra starts on that project, you can be
sure he will do it with passion.
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