quash has evolved from a game of attrition to one of precision. The key to good playing skills are picking the ball early and as parallel to the side wall as possible. Another underlying principle is to dominate the court’s centre or ‘T’ and dispatch the ball to far corners of the court, making the opponent run for it. An arsenal of lethal drop shots, precise lobs, deceptive boasts and good lengths complements the shot combination. The aim is to keep the opponent guessing and catching him off balance to force errors and weak returns.
This description may look simple but aligning a game plan around it is what separates a player from a champion and makes squash one of the most intense sports.
Squash has seen many greats and their legacy continues to carry the sport aloft. While this rich inheritance has been upheld and further enriched by some nations, others have failed to add the ingredients of innovation to it. As with any disruption, changes in squash require strict adoption and nations that resist or are slow to adapt to them are fast phasing out of contention.
Egypt is at the forefront of successfully adopting these changes and has reaped the benefits. This has been possible through a highly committed and methodical process that starts from the multifarious squash academies operating in Cairo and Alexandria. Their aim is to identify young talent — 10 years old — and groom them for the next 6 or 7 years to make them world beaters. Thousands of youngsters in these academies are subjected to a rigorous training regimen till the best among them are ready to take on the world. Tutored by top Egyptian coaches and handsomely sponsored by the government and private sector, the setup continuously churns out champions. Running these academies is a major task, but equally important is giving due coverage and promotion to squash players. As a result, Egyptian squash players have become genuine role models for the young and are household names. These steps have made squash the second most popular sport in Egypt after football.
Ahmad Barada started it for Egypt in late 1990s. His squash skills and enterprise, combined with his magnetic personality provided a recipe for success for generations of Egyptian players willing to change the shape of squash. And did the Egyptians ever nurture Barada’s efforts to perfection!
With 7 men and 5 women players in top 10 PSA world rankings, and a battery of hopefuls in top 50, there is little more the Egyptian players can do to prove their stamp of authority on the sport. But their hunger drives them and it appears they will not rest till they have some more top rankings in their kitty.
Conversely, some erstwhile inspirational squash playing nations are disappearing fast from top rankings. Pakistan is a prime example; Australia presents a similar rot. England, France and Canada, once sizzling with the best …….