POSTED DAE : Nov. 17, 2014
These are times when Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu can do nothing wrong on the squash court.
These are times when Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu can do nothing wrong on the squash court. For long has he been described as a promising talent to emerge from the Indian Squash Academy in Chennai under the tutelage of Maj S. Maniam, the SRFI Consultant Coach, Cyrus Poncha, the national coach and a host of other coaches . Many a time had one seem him put up a fighting display but when it came to what mattered most _ the end result_ he would cut a sorry figure. Those are now bad dreams that he would quickly like to erase from his mind. Certainly, after the winning streak that began with the outstanding show in the Incheon Asian Games two months ago. Much of it is history now, particularly the lion-hearted performance that saw him beat a player much superior to him on paper. That set the tone for Saurav Ghosal, India’s premier bet in such situations to pave the victory path against Malaysia and wrap up the historic gold medal for India.
Back in India Harinder won three of the four titles in the JSW-PSA challenger series, topped it with his maiden national title at the expense of hot favourite Ghosal himself in Mumbai. Flying to Phuket from there for the Asian Beach Games where squash made its debut, the plucky Indian did it again, winning the gold medal and what is more give India its first gold medal in the Games. Indeed Harinder is living a dream and nobody will grudge his current invincibility because his was a talent that had to come true sooner or later. And to think this young man would have gone, lost to cricket or athletics, had it not been for the spark of passion for squash that had struck him as a child! Cricket’s miss has been a huge gain for squash.
Hailing from a modest middle class family in Mohali, Harinder’s penchant for sports surfaced quite early in life. Aside from squash, athletics, football, hockey and cricket were the stages for his sporting interests to deeper roots. As a member of Yadavindra Public school’s cricket and athletics teams, Harinder was ready for stardom of a different kind. But squash and particularly coach A.I. Singh’s indulgence drew him away. “Coach Singh taught me how to hold a squash racket,” the young sardar remembers. But before he could teach him more, Singh left the school leaving Harinder and his parents in a dilemma. Seeing the child’s keenness to pursue squash, the parents made a national search for a good academy and that was when Chennai’s ISA came on the radar. The rest as they say is history.
It is not easy for one so young to adapt as Harinder did to the new environs in Chennai. But SRFI Patron N. Ramachandran’s encouragement ( he ensured every aspect of his life is taken care of, from stay to studies to his training) and the Coaches’ involvement helped him grow up from a bubbling talent to a gritty performer. Thanks to his ‘best friend’ Ghosal, he also had a stint at the Willstrop academy in Leeds, where as Maj Maniam said, “Harinder sharpened his skills to become a complete player.” No wonder he earns such profuse praise from the national coach. “Harinder never gives up easily. When he plays for the country one can count on him for great fights and fight backs,” Poncha said.
Today, a decade after he shifted from Mohali, Harinder is convinced destiny has brought him to squash. It is not just because of his sudden shift of gears in his performance level, something that brought a taste of what glory can do with the hero’s welcome in Mohali but experiencing the pride of doing something for the country. He still savours those moments, the flower laden open jeep on which he was driven through the town with people cheering him at every point. Everybody in Mohali, not to speak of others in various nooks of India, remembers the proud son of the country. “I must keep the good work going. I am fully dedicated to squash and will keep aiming to be on top of the squash world one day. My concern now is not ranking or job, for that will fall in place, but keep bringing laurels to the country,” Harinder is clear. May be he has just given a glimpse of the shape of things to come!