Indian squash players hope to excel in Olympic-like events in home away from home

B Shrikant

Birmingham, Jul 27 (IANS): While most members of the Indian contingent are using their arrival here early to by get acclimatised to the conditions ahead of the Commonwealth Games, squash players Abhay Singh and Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu are not facing any such issues.

Birmingham is like a home away from home for them and, therefore, the conditions are not something they are experiencing for the first time.

With England being the major hub of squash, both Abhay Singh and Harinder Pal Sandhu have played in this corner of the world regularly and feel at home -- just like they do in Chennai, which is home for most squash players because it has the national squash academy.

"Birmingham is like a home away from home for me as I come here every year to play squash. In the last five years, I have spent more time here in England than in India, so these conditions are natural for me. I also have an English coach, so it's definitely like a home away from home," said Abhay, 24, at an interaction organised by the Indian High Commission, which welcomed the athletes as part of the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations here on Tuesday evening.

While the spotlight will be on the likes of Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal Karthik, who paired up to win the women's doubles gold in the 2022 World Doubles Championship in Glasgow, Scotland, and World No. 15 male player Saurav Ghosal, the likes of Abhay Singh and Harinder Pal Sandhu will also be hoping to win some medals, especially in doubles.

Abhay Singh, who will participate in men's doubles and mixed doubles events, said they were looking forward to winning a medal in the Commonwealth Games.

Harinder Pal Sandhu said the Commonwealth Games were like Olympics for squash players as the sport is not part of the Olympics curriculum.

"For an Indian squash player, this is the biggest tournament you play as squash is not in the Olympics and obviously there are so many more countries in Commonwealth Games than in Asian Games. So, this, by far, is the biggest event an Indian squash player plays. This is like the Olympics for us.

"We look forward to playing in the Commonwealth Games and the preparation starts soon after the previous event. A lot of sacrifices, a lot of hard work goes on in preparing for these Games," said Harinder Pal Sandhu, who is currently ranked 116 in the world and has attained a highest ranking of 47 a few years back.

In Birmingham, the Indians will be looking forward to winning their maiden men's singles title but are expected to excel in the doubles events with Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinnappa favourites to claim the women's doubles title that they had won in 2014 in Glasgow.

Dipika and top male squash player Saurav Ghoshal are favourites for the mixed doubles gold.



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