In December 1953, a son was born in Karachi to Roshan Khan. He was named Jahangir, the name stands for ‘conqueror’ in Urdu, and conquer he did, going on to become one of the most destructive and dominant players in the 1980s and onwards.
Though Jansher Khan challenged Jahangir whenever they clashed, but it is Jahangir who is probably the greatest squash player ever.
His rise was meteoric and he gave his all in training, redefining the very definition of hard work and dedication to maintain Pakistan’s supremacy on the world map, like his predecessors Hashim Khan and Azam Khan did among others.
He was the Pele, the Sir Vivian Richards of squash, playing the game effortlessly. He was destined to be a great player because he was a genius who turned into a prodigy, who turned into a star that turned into a phenomenon, and ultimately into a living legend.
His intense training made him probably the fittest in the game, as he soaked out the energy from his opponents, grinding them down during his triumphs. Some believe he was a symbol of athletic perfection.
It would not be wrong to label him the champion of champions because he not only dominated the sport, he set new benchmarks which seemed unattainable.
In 1979, he won the World Amateur title at the age of 15 which was a sign of things to come. Two years later, he became the youngest ever winner of the World Open Championship. As he got a taste for winning, he went onto a winning spree that culminated in his first British Open six months later.
His dominance on squash courts was absolute as he went on a record undefeated run that stretched more than five years. During that period, only one player – Hiddy Jahan – took him to five games.
Those who had the honour of taking a game away from him were compounded with misery in the next games. There were challengers like Egypt’s Gamal Awad, who vowed to draw curtains on Jahangir’s supremacy. They were quickly forced into submission.
During the Patrick International Festival final at Chichester in 1983, the Egyptian pushed himself to the limit in a marathon that lasted two hours and 46 minutes, the longest ever match. Jahangir was equal to the challenge and won 3-1.
As he scorched his way to sporting immortality, Jahangir left a trail of over 500 successive victories behind him. Week after week, he put his body on the line and came through unscathed.
Psychologically, his opponents had already lost the match before it even began. Knowing that winning against Jahangir was highly unachievable, their aim was to lose respectably. If they met Jahangir in the early stages of a tournament, they knew that they would be on their way home the next day.
However, as his legend increased and expectations rose, Jahangir finally showed that even he is human and faced defeat on November 11, 1986. The Palais des Sports in the French city of Toulouse, perhaps saw the greatest winning streak in sporting history come to an abrupt end. In the UAP World Open final, Jahangir lost to New Zealand’s Ross Norman with the score of 9-5, 9-7, 7-9 and 9-1.
Norman may not have had the records that Jahangir has but he will certainly be remembered for falling the giant.
By the time his career ended, Jahangir had a jaw-dropping 10 successive British Opens, six World Opens, 13 Pakistan Opens and he rounded all this off by leading Pakistan to a historic team triumph in the World Team Championship in 1993.
Words do not do justice to Jahangir’s heroics and all that one can do is salute ‘The Conqueror’.
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Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2014.