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.
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.
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 DISGUISED DROP FROM THE BACK OF THE COURT
THE BACKWALL BOAST
THE THREE WALL NICK
THE SLOW, HIGH CROSS-COURT LOB
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
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.