Kush Kumar and Mahesh Mangaonkar took India to their maiden World Junior Championship medal, as they respectively exceeded England’s Richie Fallows and Ollie Holland for a bronze in Doha
Rated the most talented junior in the national radar, Kush Kumar gave India the ascendancy in the first match of the three-match rubber.
The youngster from Dhampur, presently based out of the Indian Squash Academy in Chennai, shook off aggressively, settling into a pacy tempo. He permanently secluded him to the back-court and opened up a two-game lead (11-8, 11-8) in little time.
But the game was far from over as the English junior got his act together in the third, taking it 11-9.
A see-saw battle ensued, but Fallows’ confidence grew and he soon served for the match (10-9). But Fallows erred to relieve Kush, who also saved another game ball before Kush exacted three points in succession to give fourth-seeded India a 2-0 lead.
Winning the first match buoyed India, pointed out national coach Cyrus Poncha. “Secretly, we were hoping for that first leg victory, Kush has come a long way over this past year, and his first game in particular was particularly remarkable, he kept the ball in play and played a much tighter game, and on that glass court, attacked as he had to, with Richie unable to finish the point,” he said.
But England being England, they expected them to bounce back. They did, winning the first game of the second match. But India’s top-seeded junior, Mahesh Mangaonkar was in no such submissive mood to let his counterpart Ollie Holland an easy ride. He pounced back as strong as he could, taking the second 11-0.
Riding on the decisive momentum swing, the Indian went on to snap the remaining games and the match to fetch India an unprecedented medal. “He has shown that he could upset the top two players in the world. Not sure what happened in the first game, he started a bit slow, maybe a bit of relaxation after Kush won the first match.
But from that second game he played world-class squash, although he showed some nerves again in the fourth. But his superior stroke gave him the edge in the end,” observed Cyrus.
Incidentally, this was India’s first over England in any event. “We have had great teams in the past — notably our 2004 team with Saurav Ghosal, Siddharth Suchde, Sahil Vora and Gaurav Nandrajog, then the 2008 team with Vikram Malhotra, Aditya Jagtap, Ravi Dixit and Ramit Tandon. But this team has eclipsed them all winning this bronze medal.
It is truly a proud moment for Indian squash,” he said.
Results: Kush Kumar 3-0 Richie Fallows 11/8, 11/8, 9/11, 13/11 (46m), Mahesh Mangaonkar 3-1 Ollie Holland 6/11, 11/0, 11/6, 11/7 (54m).