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Politics plays huge role in Indian squash: Ex-World Champ

Five-time World Champion Sarah Fitz-Gerald strongly believes that India can be a squash super power if it finds a way to overcome the existing deep rooted politics in the running of the sport.

The compelling claims of the legendary Australian comes in the wake of her personal experience during her visits to Chennai, considered the ‘home of squash’ in India. Interestingly, the World Squash Federation (WSF) is headed by India’s N Ramachandran.

“India has the potential to be a great super power of squash but kids and current players have restrictions on them to learn and expand their squash knowledge. Politics, sadly plays a great part in Indian Squash…Even the best players fight in competition and have to fight the system too,” the 46-year-old told PTI during her latest visit to India.

Sarah formed her opinion about the sport’s administration in the country after she was not allowed to mingle with the budding players at the Indian Squash Academy (ISA) in Chennai, a facility run by the Tamil Nadu Squash Rackets Association headed by none other than Ramachandran, who is also at the helm of Indian Olympic Association.

“I have been told that I am not allowed to visit and watch players at the academy. It is quite difficult to explain something like that. I see there are huge number of kids playing the game here but they cannot be expected to train at one place all the time. They should feel free to take help from other coaches, whether in India or abroad,” said the Melbourne resident, who has now turned to coaching and her proteges include India’s top ranked player Dipika Pallikal.

It is widely known in squash circles that it is tough to pursue the game in India if one is not willing to move to Chennai and train at SRFI backed ISA. Many players who have gone on to play for India and that includes India’s star male player Saurav Ghosal, have taken the ISA route to chase their dreams.

Sarah not feeling welcomed at the academy could also be due to her association with newly-married Pallikal, who has not had the best of relations with Indian federation SRFI.

Whatever the reason, the players would have only benefited if a player of Sarah’s stature was able to spend sometime at the game’s hub in the country.

Asked whether she is willing to coach more Indian players, the Australian said: “I would be happy to help the youngsters. I have had a few kids contact me while some just know they can’t approach me because it would cause problems. Coaching in India is too restrictive with politics…Best those kids travel to Australia or elsewhere to train with me.