Pakistan dominated squash like no other country in the world, the domination lasting for the best part of five decades. It reached its peak in the 1980s and 1990s during the reigns of Jahangir Khan and Jansher Khan. Between 1950 and 1997, Pakistan amassed over 30 British Open titles, 14 World Open titles and a lot more PSA professional titles.
In 1998, when Jansher Khan was defeated in the British Open final, Pakistan squash fell from its height and lost its international dominance in squash. No Pakistani since has reached the final of either the British or World Open. In a candid interview during his visit to Kuwait, Retired Air Vice- Marshall Syed Razi Nawab, the senior vice president of Pakistan Squash Federation spoke to The Times, Kuwait and expressed a new optimism taking place to bring back the lost glory of Pakistan in international squash.
Pointing at the decline of the game in Pakistan, Syed Razi Nawab hinted at a number of reasons particularly the lack of exposure that Pakistani players had in international tournaments during the last decade, this along with lack of sufficient funding in the sport has seen a steady decline in the ranking of the Pakistani players. Without mincing his words the Air Vice-Marshall indicated that the overall neglect of the sport in the country was also responsible and during the past few years the Pakistani Squash Federation has identified issues of concern and has now begun the long process of reversing past mistakes.
“The structures in Pakistan require an overhauling as well, meaning new systems need to be put in place to attract the best of the lot.” Syed Razi Nawab praised the performance in the just concluded Asian tournament held in Kuwait. Even though the Pakistanis lost in the semi finals they did manage to beat the world 30th seed and 16th seed, even though the Pakistanis were only seeded 40th in world ranking. Motivated and extremely passionate about bringing back the past glory to the sport, Syed Razi Nawab spoke about the new approach the Pakistani Squash Federation has embarked on which is a player-centric approach that includes physical fitness to academics and training, and also physical and mental strength. This is being done right from the grass roots level to ensure players ability to compete on an international level. “Of course we are constrained by resources,” he points out, but their top players are now being sent to camps in the United Kingdom for exposure, practice and skill development.
The talent, skill and technique Pakistani players have displayed during their dominance is second to none. The names of such great maestros such as Azam Khan, Roshan Khan, Mo Khan, Qamar Zaman, Jahangir Khan, and Jansher Khan have dominated the sport. Jahangir is considered to be the greatest squash player of all time. During Jahangir’s career, he won the World Open six times and the British Open a record ten times. For five years Jahangir was unbeaten, winning an amazing 555 matches in a row.
This winning streak was not only the longest consecutive string of wins in squash history; it remains one of the longest unbeaten runs by any athlete in toplevel professional sports. Squash is not yet an Olympic sport and the Asian Federation in its capacity is also trying very hard to get it included. “We just missed out on the 2016 Olympics and our efforts are now focussed into getting into the 2020 Olympics". Accompanying the air vicemarshall was the legendary Pakistani squash player Qamar Zaman, who also won the English Open title three times. In conclusion, the Air Vice Marshall was optimistic that their long term goals would be reached but was realistic on the time frame, “We cannot put a time frame as there are no short cuts, he pointed out, but their first goal to have their players in the top 20 might not be too far away.”
- Staff Report