March 18, 2002 © 2002 may not be reproduced without express permission.
Open Draw] [Bronstein’s
Pakistan Open begins in Lahore, in the Northern half of Pakistan, situated
between the countries of Afghanistan and India on March 20th.
That’s the date of first
round of the qualification draw – which will be of 32 players competing
for a place in the main draw. The main draw of 32 will then begin on March
22nd and conclude with the final on March 27th.
So it seems almost incredible
that the event is actually going ahead with a war on both fronts – the
war against terrorism on the West border and the war with India for Kashmir
on the Eastern one. How could this event go ahead at this time?
A good question but one that has been emphatically answered by the Pakistan
Squash Federation who have promised a ‘fool proof security’ system in
place for the duration of the tournament thus guaranteeing the players
safety and satisfying the Professional Squash Association that it’s players
In fact, as a show of
confidence the Cheif Executive of the PSA, Gawain Briars, is visiting
Lahore for the event too.
I have been to Pakistan
on a number of occasions now, and in the past while there have been torrid
times in the country the squash has prevailed. One year we had an armed
guards assigned to us when we left the hotel to make our way to the squash
courts. Initially it’s a bit of a shock to the system – a little un-nerving
– but after that it was quite reassuring as we sped through the streets
of Karachi as the Untouchables.
You see, in Pakistan
Squash stands up there with Cricket and Hockey as one of the Nation’s
major sports. The names of Jahangir and Jansher Khan will get you a long
way on the streets of any of the major cities and the list of great players
that have come out of Pakistan is a long one.
So how do you plan for an event like this? It’s difficult because of the
various challenges that the foreign players face. We can’t drink the water
– it HAS to be from a bottle, and then any food from the hotels and restaurants
that is not cooked runs the risk of giving us the dreaded tummy bug. Even
eating the salad is a no no, for fear that it has been washed with non-bottled
Players have dropped
like fly’s in the past from food poisoning of one sort or another – whether
from eating an orange that had been cut up and placed on the breakfast
buffet or from eating a steak sandwich pool-side you just can’t be too
So this year the political
situation has made a few players a little more cautious and that, coupled
with the food issues and risks (which in my opinion are slowly improving),
has meant some of us are heading for Dubai to train, acclimatise to the
heat and get used to the time difference. There is a group of about 10
of us who will be staying in Dubai until March the 21st when we’ll fly
in to Lahore and prepare to play the next day in the first round.
It’s a small compromise
but one that allows us to avoid the unusual local challenges right up
until the last possible moment. Thus arriving in better shape………in
I’ll be bringing you
at squashtalk.com some special reports from Pakistan via the superhighway,
so look out for my next instalment once I arrive at the venue, happy squashing