MARSEILLE - Egyptian head coach and players have said that team work and better planning helped them win the 25th WSF Men’s World Team Squash 2017 title and they wish Pakistan good luck to host the upcoming Pakistan Open.

In an exclusive interview with The Nation, Egyptian head coach Ashraf Hanafi said: “Even though many would not agree with me and not take Pakistan team as dangerous team , considering the fact that Pakistan finished 19th and they didn’t had the big names unlike of past, but the majority of people don’t know that even this weak team had potential to pose real challenge to us in the first round match.

“Zaman even took a game from Gawad, while other two youngsters Ammad Fareed and Shahjahan Khan also played well. I still feel that there is not much difference between Pakistani player and any given top ranked PSA player. They just lack behind due to casual approach and non-seriousness. Pakistan has a highly experienced coach in shape of Faheem Gul, who was also a top class player, while Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF) is also investing heavily on players and taking very good care of them, which is rarely witnessed anywhere else,” he added.

He said three of his players including Karaim Abdel Gawad, Marwan El Shorbagy and Ali Faraq were new comers in the world team event, while only experienced Ramy Ashour had previously played in the world team event. “Although all these three are world class individuals, but as a team , it is very difficult to perform, when one had not played in such mega events before. Yes, we were top seeds, but last time, we lost the finals in 2013 in France to England and we were aware of the threat they posses, while France, Hong Kong and Australia were also in great form.

Ashraf said the event was called off in 2015 and they had to wait for 4 long years to lay down their hands on trophy again. “We had a good combination and Gawad was playing very well, so as other players, while no one can doubt about Ramy, who is a master and class act and even half fit and a bit old, he is too much of a threat for the opponents.”

When asked why he dropped Ramy for the final clash, as his No 1 Gawad, present world champion, is not playing the way he used to play, the Egyptian coach said: “No, Gawad had displayed superb squash, we needed him to play against Nick Mattews and he proved his selection right, while Ali was also playing superb squash, we had to pick between Marwan and Ramy for the decider match, so I decided in favour of Marwan for two reasons. Firstly, he is a young, fully fit and playing awesome squash against all the opponents, while Ramy is returning from injury, so we can’t put extra pressure on him. I was sure that Gawad would give his best and he did it By playing superbly against Hong Kong’s Max Lee in the semifinals while Ali also did well against James Willstrop.”

Sharing his views, world champion Karim Abdel Gawad said: “Obviously, I was feeling pressure, as it was a huge match, but I focused on point to point and played my natural game which helped me win the crucial match and grab the title .”

Ali Faraq said he was under tremendous pressure but he handled it well. “I just played my natural game, kept Willstrop on the run and never allowed him to settle down, as he was a fighter and any leniency could have cost us dearly. We all played as one unit and ultimately, we achieved the task of winning back the title for our nation.” 

Marwan El Shorbagy told The Nation that when the coach told him that he had to play the third match, he was ready to spearhead the title charge. “I was mentally and physically ready to go all out in case my services were required. Now we had won the title but we won’t relax and ensure that this title remains in our grasp for years to come.”

Expressing his views, magician 3-time world squash champion Ramy Ashour said: “We were playing as a team and it didn’t matter whether I or any other is playing or not, the thing that matters the most is to excel and win the title . If I was picked, I would have given my 200 percent, just like other two players did. I had recovered well from injury and ready to play in major events.

“I wish best of luck to Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF) for hosting Pakistan Open from December 17. I always enjoy and cherish my moments in Pakistan, as I have won my first major title , world junior championship in Pakistan,” he added. When asked whether he would play in the PSA events in Pakistan, Ramy said: “Yes, he is ready to travel to play in the land of champions.”