ALAPUZHA: Living the life in a suitcase world of terminals and lounges, as Saurav Ghoshal analogises the life on professional circuit, thick friends come few and far between. Most of Saurav’s friends are those he forged at the Indian Squash Academy. The closest among them, by his own admission, is Harinder Pal Sandhu.
He is three years his junior, three times beneath him in terms of ranking. Still, their bond is special, one marked by mutual respect as well as sheer affection. But on the field, when they confront each other, they spare no bonhomie. They mean cut-throat business. They demonstrated that in the nerve-wracking final of the last nationals. Saurav, the 10-time national champion, was upset but conceded that if he there was one person he didn’t mind conceding the title to, it was Harinder.
But still, champions hate defeats. And Saurav set the record straight with a four-set win over Harinder in the National Games final. Harinder would have reciprocated the largesse his friend had accorded him. And with their responsibilities dusted, they might have even gone for an outing in the evening.
Saurav fetched Tamil Nadu’s fifth gold. A sixth followed when Joshna Chinappa walloped her emerging statemate Lakshya Raghavendra in straight games. Later on the fifth day of Games, fledging swimmer AV Jayaveena snared a seventh in 50m breaststroke.
Like Saurav and Harinder, the quintet of India’s up-and-coming tennis players—N Sriram Balaji, Saketh Myneni, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Vishnu Vardhan are usually spotted together, chatting and chortling around. But they yielded little when they sparred in the final. Balaji clung onto a tight first-set to see past Saketh before Vishnu nailed the decided in tiebreaker. But the Tamil Nadu pair came back and clinched the third game to prolong Telangana’s wait for their maiden gold. The wretched luck haunted them in the women’s final, too, as they caved into Gujarat, with India No 1 Ankita Raina setting the tone with a hard-fought win over Nidhi Chilumula. They might have to wait for men’s rowing finals on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Services and Haryana have drilled a huge wedge between them and the rest. Unless they digress dramatically and the also-rans stumble on a gold mine, a third team clinching the overall championship looks bleak. If wrestling has been Haryana’s pet event, the corresponding realm for Services has been shooting. Haryana have snaffled 18 of the 24 wrestling medals available while Services’ marksmen have shot down nine of the 18 completed fixtures. The only difference in pattern is that while Services have relied mostly on their seasoned pros, Haryana have managed this basket of medals resting many of their prominent wrestlers.
As for the hosts, they endured another lean day with swimmer Sajan Prakash again providing the golden-tint. But how much more can they ride on his young shoulders?
Saurav Ghosal (TN) beat Harinder Pal Sandhu 4-11, 11-4, 11-8, 11-6.
Joshna Chinappa (TN) beat Lakshya Raghavendra (TN) 11-5, 11-8, 11-4.