Lockdown in India with Saurav Ghosal

FOR people all over the world the Covid pandemic has caused disruption and I am no different.

As a professional sportsperson routine is very important to me and certainly when things went into lockdown in my homeland of India I found it tough not to be able to carry out my daily double training sessions at the Calcutta Rackets Club and Tollygunge Club. I really missed following the timetable that I had developed and become comfortable with.

Yet like everything else in life you can adapt.

The grass area in front of my apartment became my training area for physical work, I focused on video analysis and vision training methods and worked hard on meditation techniques to improve my mental strength. 

Also, I have not spent so much time in one place as I have in Kolkata this year since I was maybe nine years-old and sure it took some getting used to! Things were not made any easier by the fact my wife, Diya, was doing her lockdown in Chennai, some 1706 kilometers away! Yet the other side of this was I could spend time with my father and grandmother and that was special to me.

So, life became about creating a new routine and settling into that, and also opening my mind to other things and embracing these opportunities. In this respect I hosted a series of interviews with six of the top sports people in Indian sporting history and two of our foremost Paralympians, called ‘The Finish Line’.

These people are some of the biggest names in Indian sport and ranged from an Olympic shooting gold medalist to a female cricketing heroine and the legendary tennis player Leander Paes, who holds the record for most doubles wins in Davis Cup history.

The idea was to concentrate on their defining moments, which are among our nation’s proudest sporting occasions, and working with my management team, Baseline Ventures, I gained an understanding of the entire process that goes into producing a show. I have to say that was pretty cool!

The fact that we were attracting 200,000 hits per interview across different social media platforms was also a nice surprise and below is the link for my interview with Abhinav Bindra the legendary Indian marksman.

I hope you enjoy it!

You just never know this may even be something I might like to follow up on when I decide to finally hang my racket up!

But, of course, as the summer drew on and the announcement of the PSA World Tour’s resumption was made in August, my focus changed to getting myself in the best shape I could for the return of competitive squash, which for me came at the Egyptian Open in October.

As a professional squash player there is no more important item of equipment than your racket. My racket of choice is the 360 Head Speed 120 and there is an especially important reason behind this which I want to share with you!

The racket has a tear drop head and this was the style I grew up playing with as a junior and I have never been comfortable with anything else. For me the Head ‘Speed 120’ is perfect in that it gives me the extra power I need to take the ball deep to the back court without compromising the touch and feel I need to put the ball where I want in the front court.

The racket just feels like it is an extension of my arm and I feel like that is because the balance is perfect and all of that allows me to feel the ball right onto my hand. I have used other rackets, but nothing gives me this feeling and what I love most is that this makes me feel I trust everything the Head Speed 120 gives me.

That is vital when it matters most.

Returning to the PSA World Tour, results have not gone for me as I had hoped and although I have worked hard on my preparation that was hindered by the fact I was not able to spend the time I had scheduled with my coaches this summer, Malcom Willstrop at Pontefract, in the UK and the former world champion, David Palmer at Cornell, in the US.

But I am not alone in having my plans disrupted and you must just deal with it.

The other aspect of the return to competition I have found strange to come to terms with is the ‘Bio-secure Bubble’ surrounding the PSA Tour events which has meant only solo practice between matches is allowed. This just is not the same as training with another player, especially when each court at every tournament is different and has its own characteristics.

A third - round loss at the Egyptian Open to Mazen Hesham was disappointing but unfortunately worse was to come. At the Qatar Classic I suffered an adductor strain in my defeat to Germany’s Raphael Kandra and now I am working hard with my physio team to be fit for the last tournament of the year, The Black Ball Open in Cairo next month.

Looking back at the challenges that 2020 has thrown up, I have tried to be positive about them, enjoy the new opportunities that came my way and in particular my involvement in ‘The Finish Line’ interview series has opened my eyes to new possibilities.

For sure it has been important to allow these experiences and the time I spent with loved ones, which I would not have had if the tour had been up and running, to enrich me.

Now my hope is that when we all come through this pandemic, we will look at our lives differently, remember the lessons we have learned and move forward with improved values.