Award Winner MR. Khalid Ansari (President, SRAM)
There was a double bonus for Indian squash in
the President of India's Republic Day honours list. 16 times women's
national champion BHUVANESHWARI KUMARI and the President of the Squash
Rackets Association of Maharashtra, KHALID ANSARI, have been awarded the
Padma Shri, the equivalent of an OBE.
Bhuvaneshwari hung up her racket seven years ago after an amazing run
at the Nationals which she won sixteen times in a row. "People told
me I had equalled Heather McKay's record but I can never think of being
talked about in the same breath as Heather. She was my role model and the
greatest player women's squash has seen", said the soft-spoken
She hails from a sporting family. Her brother Yogendra (Tubby) was a
former India number 2. Later he was the country's national coach and is
currently India's only international referee. Younger sister Sohini has
been a national level tennis player and was also runner-up in the women's
squash nationals. Bhuvaneshwari's father, Yashwant Singh, is widely
respected as one of the best administrators in sport. He has been a Davis
Cup selector and is presently working with the Indian Olympic
KHALID ANSARI is Chairman of the MID-DAY Group of Publications. His
frank and hard-hitting style have become part of lore. He had a brief
stint in the Gulf where he was Editor of the Khaleej Times. Ansari is a
fitness freak. He plays squash regularly. Two years ago he took over as
President of the Squash Rackets Association of Maharashtra. Ansari and his
team have concentrated their efforts on junior development. Sponsors like
Air-India and Rabobank have come forward and the juniors have never had it
so good. The game has expanded into the suburbs.
At the national level, Maharashtra won five of the seven junior titles.
The seniors did equally well, winning the Inter-State championship. The
public court dream should soon become a reality. Efforts are on in several
directions to build eight to ten such courts in the next couple of years.
All this and more has come about under the leadership of Ansari, a man
dedicated to sport and one who has never been afraid to take on
Express MAGAZINE, Mumbai October 21, 2001.
game needs icons to survive. Equally, no game can last long if it
fails to get its fair share of monetary gains and good
like all other indoor games, over the years has been confined to the
four walls of a few private clubs scattered across the country. The
game’s mere presence was threatened a couple of years ago in
Maharashtra after the State Government refused to recognize its
governing body when it came to identifying the winners of State’s
highest sports title – Shiv Chhatrapati Award.
And one cannot
squarely blame the Government for its ignorance because the
governing body – the Squash Racquet Association of Maharashtra
(SRAM), had hardly done anything for the game. Till 1989, there was
no tournament held for the professionals. Then arrived a man who
changed it all.
Mahendra Agarwal, a
builder by profession, developed an addiction for the game which he
started playing only at the age of 29. Earlier, he had never attempted any
other game. “To cure my back ailment, I was advised by the doctor to
take up any game which needed a player to bend very often. Hotel Leela
Kempinski had just come up and it only had squash on offer. I took up the
game,” said Agarwal, when The Indian Express caught up with him at his
rest, as they say is history. Agarwal has been the driving force in
creating several landmarks in the history of Indian squash. After having
learnt the basics from marker Riaz Mohammed, who turned professional
later, Agarwal decided to delve deeper and organized the first ever
tournament for the professionals in the state in 1993. Since then, he has
been instrumental in conducting 39 tournaments, sponsoring most of them
joined by some like-minded associates, set up the Indian Squash for
Professionals (ISP), with the sole aim of looking after the needs of
professionals. Unlike SRAM, ISP started making inroads immediately. In the
same year, ISP decided to sponsor Arif Paul – the first player among the
three, whose expenses borne by ISP for a year. Paul went to the United
States on a scholarship, thanks to his squash skills, and is currently
working with a bank in Germany.
Anvekar followed next. Her term was extended later by another two years.
ISP went further by adopting Priyanka Yadav, daughter of then Additional
Commissioner of Police, SPS Yadav.
the players were benefiting, ISP ensured that the game was developed all
round. In 1997, Rehmat Khan, coach of ex-world champion Jahangir Khan was
invited to train the markers. He was also given a two year contract worth
Rs.2 Lakhto work as the
director of coaching. A separate coaching camp for ladies was also
ISP, came its next biggest venture. With the world getting hooked on to
the Internet, ISP too joined the band wagon by its launching its site – www.ispsquash.com
, an encyclopedia on squash complimenting the newsletter Pro
Squash published every three months.
a database has not been easy so far. Apart from daily updates for the
website, compiling the newsletter is no mean task. “I used to get it
done from outside but that was costing me a lot. That is when I decided to
learn the basics myself. And after six months, I can now update the site
myself,” reveals Agarwal.
association with Khalid Ansari, chairman of the Mid-Day Multimedia Ltd.
and squash writer, late Raju Chainani, got him the ideas to fuel his
passion of making squash popular.
managed to persude him to come into the SRAM fold as its joint-secretary,
a post he holds currently after former president Vaman Apte failed to do
so far two years. The Khalid Ansari – Chainani partnership was also
instrumental in getting the State’s recognition for SRAM last year. And
it was Ansari’s dream concept of public squash courts that decided
Agarwal’s next major course of action.
month saw the opening of the first ever-public squash court at the Andheri
Sports Complex and the ball has just begun to roll. Another one has come
up at Pimpri-Chinchwad near Pune, while plans are afoot for the third one.
Besides, the Police Gymkhana has agreed to give their courts to the SRAM
members for stipulated hours.
brought up the game significantly, Agarwal has gotten over Chainani’s
demise quickly to persist with the rejuvenated SRAM’s purpose of
spreading the game. “We have broken the monopoly of the earlier four
city clubs – Otters Club, Bombay Gymkhana, Khar Gymkhana and the Cricket
Club of India, and have incorporated as many as 13 affiliates so far. The
game has go to the interiors of Maharashtra with courts at Kolhapur,
Sangli, Aurangabad, Solapur, Satara, Nanded, Osmanabad and Ahmednagar,”
love and focused determination has clearly been a rolling stone in the
game’s history over the last decade and his achievements certainly
ensures a bright future for the sport.
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