Pakistan squash players successfully defended their Asian Team Championship crown as they thrashed arch-rivals and top-seeds India 2-0 in the final of the 16th edition in Kuwait yesterday.
Pakistan went into the final as underdogs but the title-decider produced a lot of drama as the balance tilted with every game. Farhan Zaman, ranked 89th in the world, beat the 46th-ranked Siddarth Schude 3-2. Zaman raced into a 2-0 lead but his opponent hit back to level the game. Zaman, though, kept his cool in the decider and managed to edge out his opponent in the final game to seal a 11-6, 11-7, 11-13, 7-11 and 11-9 win.
The 77th-ranked Farhan Mehboob was then handed a chance to seal the tie for Pakistan. He went down 2-1 against Saurav Ghoshal, the world number 24, but won two games in a row to register the 11-7, 6-11, 7-11, 11-7 and 11-9 win and the seal the title for Pakistan.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better result,” Mehboob told The Express Tribune from Kuwait. “To win the final and that too against India is just amazing. We are over the moon with the win and can’t stop tears rolling down our cheeks. It’s been an amazing team effort throughout the event.”
Nasir Iqbal and Sheikh Saqib Yousuf were the other two members of the squad that was without its top two players – Aamir Atlas Khan and Yasir Butt— as the two serve their bans.
“Nobody thought we’d win but despite bringing a second-string side to Kuwait, we’ve conquered our opponents. It’s a matter of pride for me to have led this young side to glory and I am sure this performance will serve as a reminder to all that squash in Pakistan isn’t finished and the country still has a lot to offer.”
Pakistan head coach Jamshed Gul said that his team won the event despite the odds stacked up against them.
“There were no international tournaments in Pakistan, our players didn’t get decent warm-up matches and we were without our top players,” said Gul. “But the self-belief was there and that helped us in these difficult times.”
Former world champion Jansher Khan, too, expressed his delight with the team’s success.
“This shows that the talent is still there,” said Jansher. “To beat India makes it even more special for the fans. But the players should take this victory as a platform to work harder and bring back Pakistan’s golden days.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2012.
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