Squash star Ghoshal coaches kids to supplement income

New Delhi, Aug 6 (IANS) The Siri Fort squash stadium is abuzz with a bunch of keen youngsters relentlessly slapping the ball against the wall. It looked a pretty normal activity on a Sunday till India's highest world ranked player Saurav Ghosal emerged on court.

What is World No.20 doing in Delhi on the state-of-the-art courts built for the 2010 Commonwealth Games? He can't be training for his next international commitment along with the novices.

The next moment you see him talking to a teenager on his grip and footwork. Even that is understandable for an international player to offer tips to a budding youngster.

Only when he opens up to IANS that one realizes that he is indeed training the youngsters to make a living out of squash. Not exactly to buy his bread and butter, he wants to supplement his income so that he can sustain himself on the international circuit. He is doing this 10 years after he turned pro.

"I was thinking about it (coaching) for quite some time. It is tough to make a decent living solely by playing all around the world," Ghosal tells IANS as he takes a break on second day of his six-day clinic in the capital's plush arena.

"It is the first time I am doing it in India. I did a camp with a friend in Amsterdam last month and I have done a couple of them in the US. But it feels good to be doing it here with the kids. It is one way of giving something back to the sport.

"Still, my focus is on getting into the top-15 and then the top-10," says the Kolkata-born Ghosal, stressing that he will hold workshops only when he gets time out of his hectic schedule.

The 27-year-old is working with 10 upcoming players amongst the hundreds who use the swanky training facility.

Coaching is a different ball game, more so when one does it after one was put through the paces by eminent coaches and played the sport at the highest level.

"It is a hell lot different from playing. For example, I tell these guys one thing over and over again and even then they find it tough to make adjustments in their game. I realise I surely need to be a lot more patient as a coach."

No matter how much the young guns are troubling Ghosal, they are overwhelmed with his presence on the court.

"I was thrilled when I heard about this opportunity. I play in Noida where I don't get to practise with high quality players and now I find myself training alongside Saurav sir," says Robin Singh Mann, who according to the "coach," has shown great promise. Mann recently won the U-15 bronze in the Asian Junior Championships in Amman, Jordan.

So, how is it like hitting with someone of Ghosal's class?

"You start doing the basic things much better. Like the right way to hold the racket, changing pace during a rally, how softly we need to drop the ball and how to volley. It has only been two days and I feel stronger about my game," says the lanky teenager before Ghosal announces "break time over".

The conversation with the first Indian to win the prestigious British Junior Open title shifts to his PSA career. Ghosal has been in the top-20s for some time now with the number 18 position in February being his highest.

"The next step (getting higher up the ranking) is taking a little time. It is not easy as you can't be staying in Europe for long. I have done that enough without the backing some of the top players on the circuit have," he says referring to England's James Willstrop and Nick Matthew, ranked three and four.

"In England, they are given a lump sum amount before the start of the season and they can plan the year accordingly. In comparison, the Indian government has a cumbersome process. We are required to fill the reimbursement form first and get paid afterwards. It is a bit distracting in between tournaments."

The sponsor support too is limited and he has to rely on prize money, which is a lot less when compared to other racquet sports. One gets around $2,500 to $3,000 for reaching the pre-quarterfinals of a premier tournament.

Ghosal is hoping the sports get a big push in India and it can happen only if squash makes the 2020 Olympics.

(Bharat Sharma can be contacted at bharat.s@ians.in)

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