MARSEILLE - Farhan Zaman and Shahjahan Khan completely rattled Ireland in the 2017 25th WSF Men’s World Team Squash Championship to give Pakistan 19th place in the event, which concluded here at Modern Squash Club.

Pakistan needed to beat Ireland to restore at least some pride and the green shirts finally managed to do so to finish 19th. It was 1, 2 and 3 combination for the last encounter, with Zaman at number 1 and Shahjahan at number 2, while according to the rules, in case a team was down 2-0, there was no need of playing the third dead rubber. Zaman started the match against experienced Irish Arthur Gaskin on on a very slow tempo, while Gaskin was looking sharp and motivated. It was once again same Zaman, who was hitting tins at regular intervals but when it mattered the most, Zaman started hitting winners and kept Gaskin on the back foot. His plan worked and after equaling the score at 6-6, he won next 5 points in a row to take the first game 11-6.

Zaman then put Gaskin under tremendous pressure as he was enjoying cruise control. Zaman was at one stage leading 5-2, but unforced errors and tins reduced the margin, but he finally prevailed to take the second game 11-7. It was all Zaman in the third and decisive game, despite the fact Gaskin was using delaying tactics and wasting time, but Zaman was least bothered and was fully focused on task ahead and took the third game 11-7 in just 6 minutes to give Pakistan 1-0 lead.

It was for the very first time in the entire championship that Zaman showed his real potential and justified his number 1 role. Had Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF) not listened to legends and provided opportunity to veteran Farhan Mehboob, the things would have been quite different. Even 30 percent fit Farhan Mehboob was too hot to handle for opponents and his inclusion would have meant better seeding for Pakistan as well. The PSF should give respect and whatever legends wanted, but the team selection should be done accordingly and the coach should be given more powers, rather than strangers, who have zero knowledge of squash. Now the now legends must answer about the worst performance of Pakistan team. Commonsense should prevail over personal interests, as it is only viable solution of problems being faced by the PSF.

Shahjahan Khan started the second match against Brian Byrne. Khan raced onto take 4-1 lead in the first game, before it was 5-3, then 9-3, but Khan committed too many childish mistakes, which could have cost him and the country dearly just like he did against South Africa, but luckily, Brian was soon feeling cramps and was hardly being able to move freely, even then he put up brave fight and lost the first game 8-11. Khan was soon 0-2 down in the second game, then it was 1-5 and soon it was 6-9. Khan was looking highly nervous and committing too many blunders, but the dead leg of Brian let him down an allowed Khan to stage yet another comeback in the second game, who won it 11-9. Khan though faced tough fight in the third game but he finally managed to win the game 11-9.

One thing is quite clear that Shahjahan, with all due respect, is not a champion stuff at all. He is an average player and doesn’t have the credentials of representing 6-time world team champions. He must consider himself highly fortunate to get the chance of playing for Pakistan. Thanks mainly to past greats, who had no other business, but to interfere in the federation’s affairs and hamper smooth functioning of the things. Had the federation paid heed to ground realities and spared top players from appearing in trials, the things would have been definitely different. So these legends are mainly responsible for the debacle of squash in Pakistan.

One thing is crystal clear that the players must accept the responsibility of not only letting themselves and the federation but also the entire nation. It was their pathetic display, which cost Pakistan dearly, otherwise, there was nothing wrong with coaching and facilities, as the PSF gave every possible assistance to the players and it was their turn to justify their position, but they flopped miserably.

The way Farhan Zaman and Shahjahan played against Ireland, if they had played half of that, they could have easily beat Switzerland and finished in top 10, which was very much possible.