|the-south-asian.com NOVEMBER 2001|
|about us contact us data bank past issues the craft shop the print gallery|
NOVEMBER 2001 Contents
Page 4 of 8
PAKISTAN SQUASH - THE
(All photos courtesy Squashtalk.com)
1960-80 - DECADES OF GRASS ROOTS DEVELOPMENT, CONSOLIDATION
Lahore takes over
By 1960 the Khan family were running out of steam. Age had finally started to take itstoll. The only playing survivor Mohibullah, though a devastating player with the quickest reflexes and unbounded ability, indulged in the worldly pleasures excessively to the detriment of his Squash. The enormity of the responsibility of sustaining such a singular honour for Pakistan was lost on him. Moreover after losing in the British Open final of 1963 to Mike Oddy of Scotland, Mohibullah migrated to USA. He was not heard of again. The original Khans had finally made their exit.
In grass root terms, Squash in Pakistan was still an elitist sport confined primarily tothe top city clubs and Service establishments. The top players were all serving professionals at these clubs. Their rivalries, their almost suffocating hold, their reluctance to admit outsiders, was comprehensive. Despite being a dominant world force, Squash had no grass roots development in the country as a playing sport. Only the Armed Forces' officers or the members of the Gymkhanas could play and naturally the emphasis was more on exercise rather than promoting growth. A Squash player was often referred to as 'Mango' or 'Orange Squash'.
Lahore, the cultural and educational heart of Punjab was to change all that. In 1959,Mr. Muneer Ahmed, a Railway Engineer was transferred to Lahore, the headquarters of the Pakistan Railways. His first visit to the Punjab Club Squash courts was horrifying. Of the three cemented courts only one was serviceable, the second court was used only as a last resort, and the third broken and full of chickens. An enthusiastic Squash player, a great sport lover, Mr. Muneer Ahmed was filled with determination to change all that. What followed is history and if one is to name anyone who was the father of Pakistan Squash it will have to be Mr. Muneer Ahmed.
Mr. Muneer gathered a group of like minded motivated people which included ColonelRafiq Ahmed Khan (Principal, King Edward Medical College), Mr. Raziuddin (Ex- Director General, public relations, WAPDA (Water and Power Development Authority), and the West Pakistan Squash Rackets Association was formed.
The first step was to create awareness of Squash among the general public. FortunatelyHashim Khan and Azam Khan were passing through Lahore in 1959. Exhibition matches between the brothers were arranged. Such was the response that the Khans were forced to extend their visit by another two days to cater to the spectator demand anxious to see their heroes in action. Memberships increased and the courts were humming with activity which led to the renovation of the three courts and the construction of the first two championship courts in Pakistan with a seating capacity of 250 at the same venue, increasing the number of courts to five. Two additional courts were built in 1965 to create the biggest Squash complex in Pakistan.
Simultaneously, letters were sent out to all leading academic institutions in 1961,inviting students to play Squash. Safirullah Khan, father of Mohibullah Khan, was asked to provide coaching. Almost 200 students turned up and their enthusiasm was to lead to the grass root development of Squash in Pakistan and its diversification from the Noakili monopoly. The trainees were provided free rackets, balls, use of courts and a tournament was organised with as many as five different sections which naturally served as a motivator for those who did well. This coaching scheme popularised the game in the educational institutions and among the general public. Squash was recognised as a University Sport in 1965, which also laid the foundation of an almost total domination by Pakistan in the 1970's, when eight of the World's top ten were Pakistanis.The excellent atmosphere made Lahore the magnet for all and sundry.
Aftab Javed,Pakistan's solitary flag bearer in the early to mid 1960's, who was to win the British Amateur three successive years 1963,¹64,¹65 was a product of the mix of encouragement and tournament system of Lahore. Born in Gurdaspur in India in 1938, Aftab Javed is one of the forgotten heroes of Pakistan Squash. His achievements are immense. He won the British Amateur in three successive years 1963,¹64,¹65 and played the finals of the British Open in 1964,¹65,¹70. The tall handsome Aftab was an impeccable squash player, very graceful and deceptively quick on his feet. His demise started when Jonah Barrington exposed his weakness on the backhand volley. Aftab was the role model for all Pakistani players from 1960-¹69 and indeed was Pakistan's best player at that time. Rex Bellamy writes of his playing style: "Javed played squash the way Jane Austen wrote novels – faultlessly, but within a deliberate range."
Gogi Alauddin, Hidayet (Hiddy) Jahan, Sajjad Muneer, Qamar Zaman, MohammedSaleem, Rahim Gul, Badshah Gul, Mohammed (Mo) Yasin, Farooq Mir, Khalid Mir are just some of the names who owe everything to Lahore for what they became. All the major championships were organised in Lahore. The first ever visit by the British Squash team for the First Hashim Khan Trophy for the Pakistan Open in 1963 was in Lahore. The Roshan Khan Trophy for the Pakistan Team Championship also owed its origins to Lahore. But perhaps the greatest contribution made by Lahore was to take Squash to the four corners of Pakistan and Squash grew in hitherto unknown cities, universities, colleges.
After the initial consolidation in the early 1960's three eminent Pakistanis ensured thesustenance and growth of the sport. They were Air Marshal Nur Khan, Air Marshal Zafar Chaudhry - both chiefs of the Pakistan Air Force and later of PIA - and the was the redoubtable Bhopali Prince, Sharyar Khan, later Pakistan's High Commissioner to the UK., and later also the Foreign Secretary. Of the three, Nur Khan will always be remembered because he was the one who made sure that Pakistan had a national commitment of honour to sustain the growth of Squash within the country and internationally. The importance of international competitions is due, in no small measure, to this very great Pakistani, a natural marketing genius, whose Midas touch turned everything to gold whether it was Hockey, Cricket or Squash. Nur Khan/Zafar Chaudhry also gave us Qamar Zaman, Mohibullah, and Jahangir Khan, three of the greatest Squash players of Pakistan.
In 1967, Pakistan Squash had touched the depths of despair as the Australian andEgyptian hordes and Jonah Barrington overran Pakistan. Three players were to lead Pakistani resurgence in 1969. They were Gogi Alauddin, Hidayet (Hiddy) Jahan and Sajjad Muneer. Against the wishes of the hostile Pakistan Squash Federation, the Punjab Squash Association sent these three players to the British circuit with the clear message that success beyond the third round would be counted as success. Gogi and Sajjad reached the quarters of the British Open. Gogi then went on to win the British Amateur, while Sajjad Muneer reached the semis and Hidayet the quarters. Pakistan Squash was back.
These 'three Musketeers' were the pioneers of Pakistani Squash revival. They providedthe mental break to their fellow players. The familiar response was "If Gogi can win, I know how good he is therefore I can win too". Sport is all about mental break. John McEnroe qualifying the Wimbledon, reaching the semis, becoming the World's top tennis player is the classic example. In all fairness to these three, they did not run away from the opposition, others became better but this led to the great Squash revival built on the edifice of the solid foundations which Mr. Muneer's Lahore had provided.
Air Marshal Zafar Chaudhry, then President of Pakistan Squash in 1971-74 has to becredited with providing the resources to ensure that the opportunity provided by Gogi, Sajjad, Hiddy was not lost. He arranged for a team of seven of Pakistan's best to play the entire British Circuit in 1972-¹73-¹74 and this is how Qamar Zaman, Mohibullah, Maqsood, Torsam Khan were introduced to the Squash world. Amongst them was the old war horse Mohammed Yasin (later Jansher Khan's coach) who prevented Jonah Barrington in his bid to equal Hashim¹s record of seven successive British Opens in an aggravating quarter final in 1973. Pakistanis were everywhere. Of the World¹s top 10, eight were Pakistanis in 1977-¹78.
Air Marshal Nur Khan is the pioneer of modern Squash. In 1973 he became the chief ofPIA and was obsessed with getting the legendary Australian Geoff Hunt who stood between the Pakistanis and supremacy. Despite his best effort, Geoff faltered but once against Qamar Zaman in the British Open Final of 1975 and stood firm till eventually surrendering to Jahangir in the World open in Toronto 1982. However, Nur Khan's achievements are much more than this obsession. He realised that both PIA and Pakistan had to play their role in upholding Squash as a national commitment. A marvellous PIA complex in Karachi was constructed in 1976. It was then the World's best and biggest. The First Pakistan Open Team and Open Championships for the Hashim Khan trophy, in 1976, was graced by the world's best and in the presence of Hashim, Azam, Roshan, and Mohibullah. Pakistan had become a major force in Squash, organisationally and competitively. The man behind this was Nur Khan . He dreamt of making the Pakistan Open the World's premier tournament. The inability of his successors to sustain this commitment is unfortunate.
Nur Khan gave Squash players employment and free travel. He gave the Squash worldan international circuit which reached the four corners of the world. He made Squash into a TV Sport, the Squash players became household names. He is definitely the best that could have happened to Pakistan sport, nay Pakistan. He gave the Squash World JAHANGIR KHAN, the greatest Squash player of the generation.
Copyright © 2000 - 2001 [the-south-asian.com]. Intellectual Property. All rights reserved.