The Elite and little-loved racket-ball game, squash, is enjoying its moment in the sun largely due to the efforts of Kolkata-raised, Chennai- and Leeds-based Saurav Ghosal. The 28-year-old Arjuna awardee is currently the national champion and ranked 15 in the world, the highest for an Indian ever. Ghosal’s silver medal at the 17th Asian Games, Incheon, and his team’s gold at the same event has turned the spotlight on the young sports star with movie-star looks.
How and why did you start playing squash?
My father played squash at the club-level and I was naturally introduced to the game. But I played cricket till I was 13. Then came the time to choose which sport I would pursue professionally and I liked the idea and the demands of an individual sport.
How was your Incheon experience?
Winning a gold is a huge dream realised, every little child who plays any sport, dreams of winning a gold for his country. I lost out on an individual gold and got a silver, and I was devastated. But four days later, the Indian squash team got the gold. The Asian Games is the biggest event there is for us. Our entire team reached a pedigree when we won the team gold. Ten years ago we used to dream of making it to the semi-finals, so this augurs well for squash in India. I wish I could freeze that moment in time.
You were upset losing a national title to Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu at the 71st CCI Club Western India Championship a few weeks ago, but your speech was so moving. What does being a good sportsman mean to you?
There are different ways of winning, and I believe that victory must not come with any caveats. I have had a few meltdowns earlier on in my career, but at 28, I want to win the right way. I haven’t lost a national title since 2005, but I’m happy that I came runner-up to my best friend Harry Singh. He deserved to win, he played beautifully that day.
What is a regular day like?
Off season, I do absolutely nothing. In season, I do some off-court training in the morning and go home only for lunch. In the evenings I’m in the courts for two-three hours. At nights, it’s dinners and movies with my girlfriend and our friends. I watch as many Hollywood and Bollywood movies as I possibly can.
Did you just mention a girlfriend?
She’s a model here in Kolkata. She’s a lot of fun, a little childlike and innocent. We’ve been together a year-and-a-half.
Which are your favourite sports brands? What do you wear when you aren’t in dri-fit T-shirts?
I wear a lot of Adidas and I love the brand. But otherwise it’s mostly the popular high-street labels such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Zara. I also like Banana Republic and Express. My jeans are always Diesel.
Like your predecessor Ritwick Bhattacharya, will you open a squash academy eventually? Or will you succumb to the lure of acting and modelling?
All of those are interesting options. But I also have a degree in economics and management. Who knows?