Alauddin Â© 2002 Gogi Alauddin
GOGI STILL THINKING BIG
BY RON BECK
Gogi Alauddin was the unconventional
star from Pakistan – he broke all the standard rules of tactics and beat
almost all comers by imposing his own game. Gogi, famous for laying back
and retrieving until his opponent ran out of steam, may well have achieved
multiple world championships but for the presence of Jonah Barrington
and Geoff Hunt during his heyday.
Gogi, who lost most of his
personal possessions during the Kuwait war (he was coaching at a club
in Kuwait at the time) continues to apply an infectious enthusiasm in
his approach to squash. He’s looking for new frontiers to conquer —
which today is the junior scene in America.
SquashTalk interviewed Gogi
this September as he contemplated a major venture into the USA.
you were famous during the 1970s for your ball control, strategy, and
deception. How did you develop these characteristics?
Alauddin in 1976 Â© Stephen J Line
It’s not a question of how one develops good ball control or techniques
of deception. During my time the game was based on three principles, namely
deception,ball control and strategy. If someone wanted a good career in
squash, he would need to play the way others did. For instance, Mohibullah
played a very straight game as did Geoff Hunt.
But Qamar, Hiddy and myself were completely
opposite. There were two options — either to play a straight
game like today, which would require you to be super fit like Geoff was
or have the force of Mohibullah’s legs. Otherwise
play with total technique and kill the ball every now and then which would
require more talent and somewhat
less fitness. However my game was a mixture between the two extremes.
designed my own way of playing squash using side-wall, drop, and lob which
later were brought into the limelight of squash. These things were mainly
developed by self-practice and outdoor fitness drills.
SquashTalk: How does a player start to think more offensively
instead of the defense-minded game we see all to often today?
GOGI: I wouldn’t
call my game offensive because I was never a hard hitter like
Hiddy or played at the pace of Geoff. My tactics were to let the opponent
play his shots, winners, and I would just pick them up for 30 to 40 minutes.
After that, I would start hitting very deep sidewalls, playing at the
part of the court and controlling the pace of the other player. I would
the opponent play at my pace and eventually start playing a typical loose
game. Once the player got exhausted, I displayed a winner shot. The defense
minded game is shown today because players don’t use their brains and
similar racquet control. They depend on their legs more than their brains
and that’s probably why matches are so short in length.
SquashTalk: During the time that you were playing, there wasn’t
much money at all in the game, even for #2 in the world. How did you survive
GOGI: There was no
money in squash, but I was very lucky that Pakistan
International Airlines (PIA) sponsored me comprehensively. I travelled
of cost all over the world. It was a pity, seeing the Australians
spending out of their own pockets to come and play. In this regard, we
were extremely lucky.
Even today, PIA offers similar deals
for athletes. Perhaps this is why, squash in Pakistan topped the charts
all over the world. But we survived economically by playing exhibitions
worth 30-40 pounds. In those days the British Open winner got 500 pounds,
runner up got 350 pounds. There could be no personal saving for the future
from that! But at that time, money was secondary. In our time, squash
was played more for honor and less for money.
SquashTalk: You had some famous
tournament appearances during the 1970s. Can you put your finger on perhaps
your most memorable win?
GOGI: My most memorable
win was in 1976 at the Pakistan Open semi-finals where I
defeated Geoff Hunt.
It was a great feeling especially
beating Geoff on my own soil. The match lasted 2 hours and 5 minutes,
as Irecall. It was the first time squash was ever telecast in Pakistan.
After the match, both of us couldn’t even stand up after such a thriller.
I went on to defeat Mohibullah [the younger] in the finals.
SquashTalk: How about your most frustrating loss?
Alauddin beats Jonah Barrington in the semi final of the 1975 British
Open Â© 2002 SquashTalk archives
GOGI: My biggest
mistake in my life, which I even don’t forget today is the finals
of the British Open in 1975.
I lost to Qamar Zaman !
Even the London Telegraph reported
that the fate of the final was decided. It would be a one-sided final
and Gogi would lift the crown this time. I was also very over-confident
myself but luck sided with Qamar. Before coming to the event, I was beating
him in straight games for trials of British Open.
It was the biggest shock of my life
and one I will never forget.
SquashTalk: When you were playing you had some close compatriots – namely
Hiddy Jahan, Sajjad Muneer, Qamar Zaman and Mohibullah Khan but there
were many other top Pakistanis too. What’s your view on how Pakistan gets
back to the top in squash in the 2000s?
I don’t think Pakistani squash has
a bright future.
There are too many politics in Pakistani
squash today and many people involved are corrupt.
People who have no sense of the game
are controlling the seats of the organizations and there is no single
player who has future in squash.
I can tell you with confidence that
Jansher will not be able to make a
Even the juniors are not up to the
mark.The only way Pakistan can come back to squash, is if proper coaches
are inducted : like Qamar or myself or other former top players. Also,
the politics should not penetrate to the level of the players because
this really puts them in reverse — they need a single minded focus
on the game.
SquashTalk: What have you been doing since you left the world scene at
the end of the 70s?
I lived in London for 8 years and
was associated with various squash-related programs there.
I’ve spent more time in Europe after
that and then 5 years in Kuwait. I coached at a very good club in Kuwait
and enjoyed my stay.
After that, I worked with the Pakistan
Squash Federation for 2 years and took teams to
M alaysia for tournaments and development programs. In the last 3 years,
I have been associated with Punjab squash and developing the junior squash
|Gogi in 2002
Â© 2002 Gogi Alauddin
SquashTalk: What’s the
idea behind your "Gogi Returns 2003" tour to the USA?
This is actually the first time I
would be going to America.
I’ve played so much in Canada, but
very recently it’s discovered that squash is booming
in America. Not only that, people tell me that juniors in America are
comparible to Pakistan.
Well, I’m very excited to go and check
out the top squash circle over there. The problem is that, there is no
coach in America (other than Ken Hiscoe) who has played at the top-most
Maybe I can help some players come
into the top PSA rankings. But first I need to see, if those kids are
talented enough to fall under my training.I have also endorsed a new brand,
FEATHER. I would like to do some marketing for them as well. Plus I’m
considering the possibility of coaching at the summer camp in Princeton.
So im totally over-booked and commited in the market !
SquashTalk: What would you like to contribute to the world of squash in
the next few years?
My goal is to produce a world champion
in squash for Pakistan. At this
point, it looks very far-fetched but I am confident some day, a Pakistani
will once again reach the peak of squash.
SquashTalk: Who are your favorite top players today?
really dont have any favorite pros today, because it’s a pity to see
the level of squash go down from our time.
Perhaps, people should learn from
our times and become better but unfortunately there is no current top
player who looks back at history and then compares himself — such
as you have with Tiger Woods in Golf.
SquashTalk: How do today’s
pros compare to Zaman, Jahan, yourself?
You cannot compare pro’s today with
Qamar , Hiddy or myself.
These days players depend on physical
strength and don’t use their brains.
Players are not creative in style
and don’t design their own game. Look back and see a
player like Qamar play his wrong-footed deceptive strokes. Go back and
at Hiddy’s hard-hitting and his classic nicks on volley. Check out Hunt’s
super fitnesss. Mental class is not ingrained in youngsters today. If
I was to
choose a player today, it would probably be a combination of the shots
of Jonathon Power and patience of David Palmer.
Imagine a combination of these players
multiply that by 5 or 6. Thats how good squash was at our time.
|Gogi against Sharcross
Â© Stephen Line
| Gogi in Australia
in the late 70s Â© 2002 SquashTalk archives