HANGZHOU: The presence of Saurav Ghosal at multi-discipline events, like the seasons, is a constant. After making his debut in Doha in 2006 as a teen, Ghosal, now 37, the squash player has won almost everything. Inside the glass cage at the Hangzhou Squash Centre on Thursday evening, the Indian player was hunting for the one medal he needed to complete the collection — men's singles gold at the Asian Games.
That feeling of yearning remained with him 72 minutes later. Malaysia's Ng Eain Yow, after losing the first game, won too many of the big points to seal the final 9-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-7. "The one medal I really wanted," he said after the match. "I had put in everything. Don't know if I'm going to have another shot (at winning the title). Very sad and disappointed. I guess if this is the last one, I can be proud. I gave it everything."
While he has won team gold at the Asian Games (Incheon and last week), singles has caused him a lot of heart-ache. Third in Doha, Guangzhou and Jakarta and second in Incheon when he was a point away from wearing a shiny yellow disc around his neck.
It's something he namechecked. "It's a difficult question to answer now (has he played his last Asian Games)," he said. "The emotions are very raw. I don't know myself whether I'm done or whether I'm going to be playing for three more years. It's a decision to be made when things are a little more calmer. After giving 90% of my life to this game... don't think it would be fair on the game to make that decision right now."
In a final dominated by long rallies and some questionable decisions, the momentum turned in the middle of the second game. After Ghosal had won the first stanza, he was looking to put a stamp of authority to proceedings. However, that's when things slowly started sliding south. Over a five-minute period, all the 50-50 'let' calls went the way of the Malaysian. After trying to argue with the judges, Ghosal only opted to stare at the judge instead. "It's not easy (getting back the focus after playing long rallies only for it to be ruled as a let)," he said. "I had a period of 2-3 minutes when I got three or four in a row which was interesting (laughs). It didn't kind of go my way. It also helps the other person and he fed off it. But he's a quality player. Things kind of unravelled from the middle of the second game. Weird things happened and I tried to keep it in as best as I could."
The last four words actually sums up what Ghosal has brought to the table as an athlete. He continues to be India No 1 — a spot he hasn't relinquished in more than a dozen years — and is fit enough to keep going. When his longevity was put to him, he said: "Whatever I have done, I'm not one to blow my own trumpet and say 'I have done this, I have done that'. I have just tried to be the best player I can be and try to win as much as I can for the nation... give my best effort. I can say that the effort has always been there."
It's time to cherish Ghosal. Because you never know if the winner of nine medals across five Asian Games will be back in 2026.
Even he doesn't know.