India grab maiden Asian Junior Squash

Colombo: The Indian junior boys created history when they downed arch-rivals and title holders Pakistan in the final of the Asian Junior Team Squash Championships here on Saturday for their maiden triumph since the inception of the tournament in 1981.

Playing to a packed crowd at the Sri Lankan Air Force base squash venue, the Indian team of Ramit Tandon, Abhishek Pradhan, Mahesh Mangaonkar and Vrishab Kotian rose to the occasion as they outmaneuvered and outplayed the mighty Pakistanis.

India No. 1 player and captain Tandon, who had been untested so far, confirmed that he is certainly the most improved Indian squash player in recent times.

Playing Danish Atlas Khan, the Pakistani No.1, the match lasted 90 minutes and went the distance with Tandon displaying his amazing skills.

Winning the first game 11-7 with his comprehensive finish shots, Tandon was pumped up. He lost the second game 6-11, but came back strongly to win the third 11-9.

Danish then took the fourth game 11-8, setting up a tough decider. The two played great squash and the score was neck and neck until 6-6 when Tandon jumped to a 9-6 lead.

Danish then fought back to level 9-9. The next two points were blistering rallies with both players moving to every inch of the court. Tandon finally won the game 11-9 with a backhand volley drop.

It was a great match and the crowds were entertained to a high level of squash, which kept everyone glued to their seats until the very last point.

"I have not seen skills at this level amongst any Indian players in the last decade," said Major (Retd) S.Maniam, consultant coach of the Indian team.

"This certainly augurs well for India squash. All the hard work put in by the players with the unvarying support from the federation and the government is producing the desired results," said Maniam.

Pradhan, the No.2 player, was next on with Nasir Iqbal. As much as Pradhan tried running the the court retrieving many shots as he could, in the end he was outplayed and lost 0-3.

The decider tie saw two lanky players in action, Mangaonkar and Sadam Ul Haq. From the onset Mangaonkar stamped his authority and did not give the Pakistani any hope of winning this tie.

Showing true class, Mangaonkar romped home 3-0 as the elated Indian team jumped for joy.

"With this victory in hand, India now are the proud owners of three of the four Asian junior titles. Six months ago, Ravi Dixit and Dipika Pallikal won the Asian Junior Individual Championship (Boys and Girls under-19). Now, we have won the Junior Boys Team," said Srivatsan Subramaniam, secretary general, Squash Rackets Federation of India.

The results (final):

India beat Pakistan 2-1: Ramit Tandon bt Danish Atlas Khan 11-7, 6-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-9; Abhishek Pradhan lost to Nasir Iqbal 4-11, 7-11, 3-11; Mahesh Mangaonkar bt Sadam Ul Haq11-7, 11-2, 11-6.

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