Chennai, July 12 (IANS) To accelerate growth in the Indian squash ecosystem, technology giant HCL and the Squash Rackets Federation of India (SRFI) on Tuesday announced a slew of new initiatives that will raise the profile of the sport in the country in five years.
The main initiative, called the HCL Squash Podium Programme, will be a multi-pronged program that will nurture existing senior and junior squash players and help them finish at the podium in major international events including the Commonwealth and Asian Games.
The programme will also help enhance coaching standards and encourage and identify the next generation of Squash players in the country through grass-roots initiatives.
The HCL Squash Podium Programme will host multiple initiatives including like:
1. High-Performance Camp for Commonwealth Games 2022 and World Junior Championship:
The two-week performance camp will be held from July 11 to 25 for seniors and juniors with top national and international coaches, including Chris Walker, Gregory Gaultier, and Sebastien Bonmalais. These camps will be geared towards improving game strategy and tactics, strength, conditioning and nutritional direction.
It will also include individual player assessment reports, which will be created during these camps by leveraging sports science, to offer customised guidance to each player and help them perform better.
Graeme Everard, an experienced physiotherapist from England will accompany the players for the Commonwealth Games, starting July 25.
2. PSA Tournaments in India: HCL and SRFI will organise multi-city Professional Squash Association (PSA) tournaments in India for both men’s and women’s categories. These tournaments help talented Indian players gain international ranking points and the right exposure from competing against some of the best international players. This will also help build and strengthen the next rung of Indian players.
3. Grassroots squash: HCL and SRFI will work to broad-base squash and increase participation by identifying and nurturing untapped talent across the country. Talent at the grassroots level will be identified and nurtured through inter-school tournaments and local clubs.
As part of this initiative, HCL will support institutions to build squash courts, offer curriculum & technical support to institutions with existing squash courts, enhance coaching standards and ultimately reward players with ranking points and exposure to move to the top of their game.
4. HCL Indian Junior Open: Keeping in mind the above initiatives, HCL will aim to increase the number of participants in the junior category. This will be organised as a Platinum event under the Asian Squash Federation (ASF) calendar (the highest level championship in the Asian Circuit) and will be rated as a Six-star tournament by SRFI.
The top players from this tournament will receive ranking points which will add up to their junior Asian rankings in the relevant age group.
5. Multiple coaching camps and referee clinics: HCL and SRFI will work towards capacity-building and skill enhancement for existing Indian coaches and referees and benchmark them to standards recommended by World Squash Federation (WSF). HCL and SRFI will also host referee clinics along with each PSA tournament to help improve refereeing standards.
Announcing the HCL Squash Podium Programme,Rajat Chandolia, Associate Vice-President and Head, HCL Brand, said, “HCL has been a long-term investor in promoting and nurturing India’s sports ecosystem, especially those sports which have remained outside the spotlight. We launched the HCL Squash Podium Program in 2019 and conducted junior tournaments, PSAs and training camps for the coaches.
“As the world returns to normalcy post-Covid, we are thrilled to create an enhanced program that will encourage and support not just existing players, but also create a grassroots movement for Squash in our country, ultimately adding brilliant players to the country’s repository and delivering sporting success on the global stage,” he said.
Cyrus Poncha, Secretary-General, SRFI, said, “Indian squash is gaining popularity as a competitive sport with the success of players like Joshna Chinappa, Dipika Pallikal, and Saurav Ghoshal securing important international wins for the country. Our joint effort with HCL has helped India rise to third place behind Egypt and the UK among countries with the highest globally ranked players.
“In less than a year of launching the programme, Indian players with world rankings increased to 54. This is a testimony to the powerful impact committed corporates such as HCL to bring to the sporting ecosystem. Over the next five years, we would like to build a strong community of squash talent to enable India to dominate the world stage,” Poncha was quoted as saying in a release.
In the past, HCL partnered with SRFI for the HCL Junior Squash tournament, HCL Senior National Squash Championship 2017 and 2018.