The Incredible Khans of Squash: Part IV and then came Jansher
by Martin Bronstein. Copyright August 2000
Four: And then came Jansher
In 1986 Jansher was training hard in West London. He would line up four or five players and play them one after the other - and beat them all 3/0. If he stayed on court for three continuous hours, facing world class players, he was happy. He was determined to beat Jahangir at his own game - fitness.
The two JK's, as they became know, met for the first time in the first round of the Pakistan Open in December 1986 and Jansher took a game off Jahangir. Three months later they met in the final of the Spanish open, again Jahangir won 3/1. When Jahangir demolished Jansher 9-6, 9-0, 9-5 in the 1987 British Open in April, it appeared that Jansher was just another dreamer. Nobody could have guessed what was to happen over the coming year.
It started in the Hong Kong Open in September 1987 when Jansher beat Jahangir in the semi-final. Not just beat him, but beat him 3/0. That historic win was the start of an eight match domination over the formerly unbeatable Jahangir. In Birmingham in September Jansher beat Jahangir in the semi-final of the world open and went on to become world champion.
Jahangir suddenly had a new challenge and in March 1988 he reversed Jansher's winning streak and went on to beat Jansher 11 times in their next 15 meetings. Their match in the 1988 World Open in Amsterdam had one historic and unforgettable feature; the first rally of the first game lasted 6 minutes and 15 seconds - and ended in a let.
There was nothing fancy about the game they played, a mesmerising, metronomic repitition of a simple pattern as the ball was hit off two walls into the back corner, only to be returned in the same manner. This wasn't squash so much as two proud rutting, head-butting deer fighting for supremacy of the herd. It was squash fitness being pushed beyond intelligent boundaries. Jahangir won that match 3/0, soaked with sweat right down to the toes of his socks. Jansher, dry by comparison, was still moving silkily around the court, only his eyes sinking into his head showing the depth of exertion.
They met for the last time in the World Open in 1993 and Jansher won 3/1. In all they had faced each other 37 times in competition with Jansher winning 19 times to Jahangir's 18 victories. But on game count, Jahangir led 79 to 74 and on total points had won just 23 points more than Jansher.
Jahangir retired that year, his body no longer able to take the stresses of the game. It was a body that, for 15 years, had been subjected to a daily regimen that would have broken any marathon runner. He had won the British Open ten years in succession from 1982 -199, a record that will almost certainly stand for a very long time. If other countries thought the Pakistani domination would disappear with Jahangir, then Jansher had other ideas; he took up where Jahangir left off, dominating the rankings and winning the British Open six times in a row.
By 1997 his knees were giving him trouble and his fitness was decreasing. His opponents accused him of blocking access to the ball and constant fishing for penalty strokes. He just managed to hold off the challenge of the emerging Scot Peter Nicol in the 1997 British Open to scrape a 3/2 victory and again there were accusations of blocking unpenalised by a weak referee.
A year later in the same venue Peter Nicol and his coach Neil Harvey devised a game plan to beat Jansher: tight on the wall into the back corners and no cross courts for the lanky Jansher to volley for winners. After a long first game, won by Nicol 17-16, Jansher realised that his usual boast "I am fitter, so I win" was no longer true. He gave up and lost the next two games 15-4, 15-5.
The Khan Era had finally come to an end. From 1951 when Hashim had won his first British Open, Pakistan had been a huge, dominating force in squash for 47 years. Nicol's victory was decisive in more ways than one; because the Pakistan Squash Federation had become complacent during the reign of Jahangir and Jansher, the junior development programme had not been rigorous enough. Where once there had been six Pakistanis in the top ten, this year there is only one Pakistani in the world top 20.
Last year's British Open in Aberdeen saw a lone Pakistani player, Amjad Khan, in a field of 32. Jahangir, now a vice-president of the World Squash Federation, commented a few weeks ago that the young Pakistanis won't work hard enough, won't sacrifice enough. Probably Jahangir's and Jansher's feats look easy to them - they don't understand the years of grindingly hard training that went along with their innate talent. The Khan era is well and truly over. But what an era, what a domination and what records! And who knows what the future might bring.
|Jahangir and Jansher at the Spanish Open, 1986. (photo © 2000 Stephen Line )|
|Jansher tries to turn back the clock during his comeback attempt at the 1999 Maastricht Libertel Open. He received a wildcard and faced Jonathon Power. He played strongly, but lost to Power (photo appears courtesy SquashWeb © 2000 Squashweb )|
|Jahangir versus Jansher at the Al Falaj, 1988 (Photo above and below© 2000 SquashTalk, Jahangir Khan Collection)|
|Jansher's dominance frustrated his opponents on tour. Here Rodney Eyles is, as frequently was the case, at loggerheads with Jansher||
Jansher Khan always provided color on the tour. All three photos © Stephen Line)
|Jahangir's older brother Torsham died tragically on court of a heart condition. Jahangir's was determined to honor his brother with his play.|
|Jahangir crashed the North America hardball circuit in 1983 and beat the then American Hardball king, Mark Talbott, in 10 of 11 meetings between 1983 and 86. Photo © 2000 SquashTalk, Jahangir Khan Collection)|
|Pakistan Squash website by:|