SquashTalk > Pakistan Squash > Khans Family Genealogy Part III

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British Open 2000

The Khan Family, A Squash Dynasty

by Rob Dinerman. © September2001 |
may not be reproduced without express permission of SquashTalk
Photos: SquashTalk archives, all © 2001

Mo congratulates Sharif at the NAO '69
Sharif Reigns in North America
The Highly Popular Torsam
Gulmast with his dad, Hashim
Torsam - shortly before his tragic death
Jahangir in Qatar against Jansher
The teen-aged Jahangir breaks through

PART III: Sharif and Jahangir            [Part I ]       [Part II]        [Part IV]

Mohibullah Khan's mid-sixties' domination of the North American game was abruptly terminated by the arrival onto the competitive scenario of Sharif Khan, the eldest of Hashim's 12 children, who bore the double burden of being both the first of Hashim's seven boys and of having to deal with the pressure of being sent at age 11 to England's Millfield Prep School, 12,000 miles from his native Nawakille, and with no knowledge of the language or multi-front challenges that awaited him.

Sharif eventually grew into this formidable environment, becoming both a fine student and a standout squash player, as evidenced by his victories in both the Drysdale Cup (considered then as now the unofficial World Junior Championship) and the Somerset County Men's A title, which Sharif won at age 13, thereby earning for himself and his classmates a day off from school in celebration.

Sharif's main celebratory achievements, of course, would come more than a decade later, and on North American soil, where he won the North American Open (NAO) a record 12 times in the 13-year period from 1969-81 (with 15 straight NAO finals from 1968-82) and added nine WPSA Championship titles, both of which far eclipse the totals reached by Sharif's closest statistical pursuers.

Sharif's final North American crown, in 1981, came at the last-round expense of his younger brother Aziz, who along with another brother Liaqat (whose name was Americanized to Charlie) held a WPSA top-ten ranking throughout the late 1970's and early 1980's. A fourth brother, Gulmast, always possessed sharp racquetwork, and with the improvement in recent years of his conditioning level he has thrived in age-group North American softball competition, reaching in fact the final of the World Masters 45 -and-over competition in Portland Oregon in the summer of 1999, where he met brother Charlie.

Probably due more to fortuitous happenstance than meticulous orchestration, it was just as Sharif's long supremacy atop the North American game was coming to a close that across the Atlantic another product of the Khan family, and quite possibly the greatest of them all, was rising to the fore. Jahangir Khan was Roshan's youngest son and, early on, a sickly child who needed several hernia operations and lived in the shadow of his charismatic older brother Torsam. Roshan, who remained in Pakistan after his playing days were over, brought up his own two sons and also became a surrogate father to Rehmatullah and Amanullah, whom Roshan's older brother Nasrullah left behind when Nasrullah moved to London, where he is credited with coaching Jonah Barrington to the six British Opens Barrington won.

All four of Roshan's young charges developed swiftly (in Jahangir's case after he outgrew his boyhood maladies) and by autumn of 179 Torsam had attained the # 13 world ranking and been elected to the ISPA Presidency. That November, at age 27 and seemingly in the flower of health, Torsam suffered a fatal heart attack during a tournament match, sending a devastated 15-yr-old Jahangir into a period of extended mourning. When the shattered youngster had somewhat recovered, his father Roshan (whose own older brother Nasrullah had passed away two years earlier) decided to entrust his further development to the hands of Jahangir's 29-year-old cousin Rehmatullah (better known as Rehmat), who graciously agreed to sacrifice his own career and took Jahangir into his home in London.

If the unequalled greatness Jahangir would ultimately attain was presaged right at birth.by his name (Jahangir being the Urdu expression for "Conqueror of the entire World"), then it must be said that a number of other factors were brought to bear as well in the evolution of this darkly handsome paragon. Rehmat's coaching --- the result of both his father Nasrullah's coaching of Barrington and some coaching Rehmat had received in return from a grateful Jonah---was unquestionably a critical and often under- rated element, as was the friendly nurturant home environment that Rehmat and his English wife Josie provided for Jahangir, who trained at the Wembley Squash Centre, where Rehmat was the head professional.

Barrington's influence on the methods Rehmat applied to Jahangir's development were especially evident in the areas of conditioning and off-court training, a well-known Australian custom heretofore eschewed by the Pakistani players, who had always relied on simply playing squash to reach their top form. Rehmat's ability to meld these different approaches gave Jahangir the stamina base his father Roshan had always lacked complemented by the Roshan-like racquet skills he inherited, which praiseworthy parlay was powerfully fuelled by an overwhelming motivation derived of the memories of both his deceased brother (to whose memory Jahangir dedicated his entire career) and the lingering frustrations of his father's partially thwarted aspirations, which Jahangir swore he would redeem.

The results of this marvelous medley of motifs were, in a word, awesome. During the decade from 1982-91, Jahangir won all ten British Opens (eclipsing Geoff Hunt's record of eight and shattering the mark of six, held by three men, for consecutive titles); played in a pair each of Canadian and North American Opens, winning all four of these major hardball titles; went five- plus years without losing a single match; and in 1985 matched Hashim's 1957 feat of winning both the North American and British Opens in the same season.

In fact, Jahangir's "double" in the spring of 1985 was all the more astonishing for occurring in a virtually irreducible time frame; less than 24 hours after thrashing Chris Dittmar in the British Open final, Jahangir was on court in midtown Manhattan for his first-round North American Open match (against as it happens, Hashim's second son Gulmast,) having Concorded across the Atlantic during the brief interim, in what has to have been the single most ambitious project in the history of squash.

Within one extraordinary six-day stretch in early May, Jahangir symbolized his double domination of squash by winning both finals, a transcontinental accomplishment that required him to rise superior not only on his highly talented opponents but also to such obstacles as fatigue, letdown, jet lag, and the adjustment problems implicit in so speedy a switch between these highly differing games.


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