CHENNAI: Harinder Pal Sandhu has a habit of picking up books at the airport when he is travelling. It will mostly be biographies from the sports section of the store because “it has real-life stories”. In these COVID-stricken times, when many athletes are finding it hard to cope with the pandemic, the 30-year-old squash player buries himself in books to stay clear-headed.
Confined to his home in Mohali, Sandhu has been reading ‘The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive’ by James A Afremow. Having pursued a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Annamalai University, his mood lightens up while talking about books. ‘Open’ by Andre Agassi and ‘Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth’ are a few biographies in his collection.
“I have been reading books related to mental strengthening, what coaches in abroad speak to players, how they get athletes charged up, how the great players think,” said Sandhu, who has won three medals at the Asian Games. “When you are not playing the sport, you can at least strengthen the mind at this time. There were a few books that I couldn’t complete because of playing and training pressure and I was not enjoying it then. Now I’m starting it all again. I also watch great matches from the past to learn from the best players.”
Sandhu was on a comeback trail after a career-threatening injury last year — he suffered from a bulging disc and scoliosis in the back caused severe nerve infringements in his body. In December 2019, he won the 11th PSA title of his career with a triumph in the HCL SRFI Indian Tour Mumbai leg — his biggest PSA title in a $20,000 event. He had also competed in the South Asian Games in Nepal the same month and claimed silver in the men’s singles category.
A prolonged time away the court means he had to take extra care to be in shape. Though he is relishing home cooked food, Sandhu has consciously cut down on meat since the lockdown was announced. “Sometimes it’s tough to control because home food is the best food for anyone. I am in Punjab, so there are lots of sweets involved. I’m cherishing whatever I am getting during this time. We eat a lot of parathas, some kheer, custard, dal subzis. Everything has ghee in it. Sometimes I tell my mother to tone it down a bit. Just to be extra safe, I am taking a lot of vegetables for protein. When I’m training, I consume fish and chicken for lunch.”