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Highlights
of September

…Pakistan Imperative… Rummy Plays Hardball
… Matthew … PSA Reprimand… more

Global Gallery,
September 25, 2006

The Monthly Round-up of the Interesting and
Inane of Squash From Martin Bronstein

© 2006 All
rights reserved.
all photos© 2006, Debra Tessier and Fritz Borchert

corby
Jahangir
trained with Rahmat at Wembley. Photo © 2006, SquashTalk
archives.

PAKISTAN’S
CHAMPIONS MADE IN BRITAIN

You
may have read recently that the Pakistan Squash Federation dumped on
its present crop of players for not achieving world domination – or
anywhere near that status.

What
they may have forgotten in their rush to shift the blame from their
own lack of planning was that both of their great players of the last
20 years  were actually honed in Britain.

Almost thirty years ago Rahmat Khan persuaded the ruling powers to let
him take over the coaching of the teenaged Jahangir Khan and so a very
boyish Jahangir moved to Wembley, north London, in England, close to
the Wembley Squash Centre where he trained every day under the shrewd
eye of Rahmat. Next door was the Wembley Conference Centre (still one
of the best venues ever) where Jahangir won 10 of his British Open titles.

In
the eighties another young, but skinny kid called Jansher Khan also
moved from Pakistan to England and based himself at Stripes Squash
club in west London, where, guided by  Satinder Bajwar (now the `Harvard
squash coach),  he honed his skills and fitness  to such a
level that in the late 80’s he beat Jahangir in eight out of ten
matches, an unthinkable feat  a few years earlier when Jahangir
was in the middle of his 500-match unbeaten streak.

corby
Jahangir
and Jansher engaged in some fearsome battles on the court – here
at the ’88 British Open. Photo © 2006,
SquashTalk archives.

Jansher
used to hold ‘open court’ in the afternoon and any
player could go along and play him. Jansher would play them one after
the other, beat them 3/0  and then await the next victim.   The
victims would vie  to see who got most points off Jansher. Anyone
winning a game was a hero.

Jansher’s fitness level was phenomenal. His interview/mantra to
journalists never varied: “I fitter, so I win’.  He
did too.

So, to get to my point finally, the PSF never did create a champion.
But it is good news now that they will finally be using a videotape and
other scientific methods which have only been around for 30 years.

SQUASH – THE
POLITICIANS’ GAME

So
squash finally hit the front page of the New York Times. Why? Because
Donald Rumsfeld  plays it every day. (How comes the New York Times
managed to ignore squash for years when it was being played in Grand
Central Station, one of the  best venues in the USA?).

The
story has touched a nerve and even the BBC  radio Today program
(a must for any  Brit who wants to know what is going on in the
world) felt they had to interview Peter Nicol on the subject of squash/politics.

Rumsfeld’s
squash playing covered in the New York Times. Photo © 2006,
Dean Martin, NewsPix.

The
first thing to note is that  Rumsfeld plays the old game of
American hardball, which, depending on the spin, shows that he is totally
out of date, OR he has his beliefs grounded firmly in good old American
values. It seems when  the Pentagon followed the US universities
by building international squash courts, they still left one narrow court
standing.  I mean, Rumsfeld was the Secretary of Defense and position
has its privilege.

“He hits the ball well, but he doesn’t play by the rules,” says
Chris Zimmerman, a devoted squash player who works in the Pentagon. Mr.
Zimmerman has never actually played his boss. But he says he has noticed
that Mr. Rumsfeld, 74, often wins points because, after hitting a shot,
he does not get out of the way so his opponent has a chance to return
the ball, a practice known in squash as “clearing.”

That
is not cheating. ( Jansher Khan made an art of it and nobody – except
maybe a dozen top players of the time – called him a cheat.) Poor old
Donald is 74 years old, and like me, is not as quite fast around the
court as we used to be.  I am sure he would like to get out
of the way, but the old legs just don’t move fast enough.

(And anyway, we wonder whether Mr. Zimmerman still has a job.)

So,
here’s the

Bronstein Guide to the Political Aspects of Squash.

THE BOAST
A perfect politician’s shot. Rather than a direct shot to the
front wall,  the ball  goes off the sidewall  before hitting
the front wall and is hard to detect.  Describes accurately the
way a politician responds to difficult questions.

THE DISGUISED DROP FROM THE BACK OF THE COURT
The player
shapes to play one shot and then plays something entirely different.  There
are two words that make that strategy clear: Election
promises.

THE BACKWALL BOAST
Out of position, beaten by a good
length shot, the backwall boast is a shot of  sheer desperation.  Compare:  Gaps in tape
recordings and “I did not have sex with that woman”.

THE THREE WALL NICK
For advanced players only: played
off side wall, the ball goes  to
the front wall and then hits the nick at the third wall/floor. The opponent
has no chance at all, hence the shot is known as the J Edgar Hoover,
meaning whatever you do, you land up in jail.

THE SLOW, HIGH CROSS-COURT LOB
By
the time the ball comes down, you have forgotten why you are on court.  Compares
to the filibuster or the appointment of a Congressional committee to
investigate wrong-doing.

THE VOLLEY
The
shot that puts pressure on your opponent. The ball is coming back at
him before he has reached the T.   The equivalent of a sudden
resignation or “I explained that fully last week. Next question.”  Whaaaa?

THE
COUNTER –DROP
A
sneaky response to a sneaky shot.  Well, now, doesn’t that
describe the mode of argument between Democrats and Republicans, Capitalists
and Socialists or, in present day Britain the battle within the different
factions of the  Labour Party?

FREE SPEECH AT A PRICE

L.
J. Anjema, the  Dutch  champion, gave vent to his feeling
on the lack of real prize money at this year’s British Open.  His
comments were carried on  Squashtalk in the cause of free speech
and open debate and all those kinds of good things.

The
promoter of the British Open, Paul Walters, complained to  the
PSA  about Anjema’s opinion and now poor old Anjema is going
to  disciplined  for “bringing the game into disrepute”.  So,
students,  now discuss in  two hours or less, where free speech
stops and   bringing the game into disrepute begins.  If
LJ does get penalized by the PSA, I intend to start a fund so that all
lovers of free speech and open debate can contribute.  I’ll
start the ball rolling with  $10 towards LJ’s one-way fare
to Chile. (I don’t think the PSA has an extradition treaty with
Chile).

WELL DONE NICK

It
was  a great experience to see Nick Matthew win the coveted  British
Open title in front of a home-town crowd in Nottingham. The point about
the victory is that nobody truly expected but on the other hand, nobody
ruled it out.  And that  applied to the top ten players, which
is why this is such an exciting time in the PSA – anybody in the top
ten can win it.

After
watching David Palmer in his quarter-final I thought he was unbeatable
but along came Thierry Lincou with a fantastic come-from-behind effort
to beat him in the semis.  Shabana got beaten in the first round
by John White and most of the pundits who saw it reckoned it to be the
best match of the tournament  if not one of the great matches of
all times.

The
fact is I haven’t correctly forecast a major tournament for
many moons which  leads me to thoughts of becoming a  bookmaker
on professional squash.  Once I take bets on all the top players,
I have to come out a winner.  I have tried to persuade Ron Beck
to turn Squashtalk.com into an on-line betting site but he says the State
of Louisiana  is prosecuting  people who do that sort of thing.
Damn!

THE
ALTOGETHER MARVELLOUS  NICOL DAVID

Nicol
David – dominant at the British Open. Photo © 2006,
Fritz Borchert

Malaysia’s sparkling jewel Nicol David picked up her second British
Open title and as far as I can see  will pick up  another
half a dozen before she’s through. She is simply magnificent and
I cannot see another player beating her for a long time.  Yes; she
will lose the odd match, just as Geoff Hunt  used to when he was
the best player in the world, but her supremacy will not  challenged
for at least five years. (Mind you, keep an eye on England’s Alison
Waters: she has come on in leaps and bounds and should soon be the England
number one).

I
hope John Nimick will put a women’s tournament on at this year’s
US Open so that the Boston squash fraternity can see this wonderful Nicol
David in action.

Incidentally
Nimick has just announced that the US Open has been elevated to Super-Series
status, making him the  only
promoter to have three Super Series events (the Canadian Classic in
January and the Tournament of Champions in New York in February are
the other two).

The
US Open will be in Boston in mind-November and I shall be there reporting
from the qualifying rounds onwards. A week after that has finished
I shall be in Belfast to report on the Women’s World Open.  So
stay tuned to Squashtalk.