The Asian Games-bound Indian squash players have questioned the presence of Cyrus Poncha and Bhuvneshwari Kumari as coaches in the contingent, saying they can only play the role of administrators in the continental mega event in Indonesia.
The eight players picked for the Asian Games have been training without a full-time coach and most of them don’t train regularly with Kumari and Poncha, who has been a longtime national coach.
Sixteen-time national champion Kumari’s credentials as a player cannot be questioned but she is not involved in the functioning of the national team and only travels with the team during multi-sporting events like the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.
Poncha may be a coach on paper but he is more effective as a man manager. It is also rare for a coach to be a top tournament administrator but not for Poncha, who was the competition director of the World Junior Championships held in Chennai last month.
But more than a team manager, the players need technical and tactical advice during close games, something former coach Achraf Karargui could have provided but the Egyptian was fed up with the Squash Rackets Federation of India (SRFI) and resigned before the Commonwealth Games in April.
“For technical inputs during matches, we rely more on each other,” a player told PTI on condition of anonymity.
However, the presence of physio Dimple Mathivanan is very much welcome by the players. The Sports Ministry has cleared the entire squash contingent on cost to government.
“Since we don’t have a full-time coach, it doesn’t leave us with much choice. Their role at the Games is more of an administrator than of a coach. Dealing with off the court issues and communication with the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) officials,” said another player.
“Since there are no world class coaches available in India, who do you replace them (Poncha and Kumari) with,” the player added.
While Poncha is based in Chennai, the home of the Indian Squash Academy, Kumari runs her own academy in New Delhi. They both went to Asian Games and Commonwealth Games in 2014 and were also part of the contingent in Gold Coast CWG earlier this year.
Officials at SRFI were unavailable for a comment on the players’ concerns.
While Poncha did not answer calls, Kumari said it is the federation, in this case SRFI, which recommends the coaches.
“You should be asking them, not me. I am busy with my academy in Delhi and whenever I am called for national duty, I am more than happy to serve,” she said.
Only last month, India’s highest-ranked player Saurav Ghosal had lamented the lack of top class coaches in India.
Meanwhile, the players including Ghosal, Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal, who were training overseas for the Asian Games, have returned to join the camp in Chennai.
The women’s squad is training on its own while world number 23 Declan James of England has flown in to spar with the men.
Besides Ghosal, the other members of the men’s team are Harinder Pal Sandhu, Mahesh Mangaonkar and Ramit Tandon. The women’s team comprises Pallikal, Chinappa, Tanvi Khanna and Sunayna Kuruvilla. The squad leaves for Jakarta on August 18.
Squash had fetched an unprecedented four medals for India at the 2014 Asian Games, including a men’s team gold. India had finished second behind Malaysia in the medal count in squash.
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