ISLAMABAD  - The year 2015 started very poorly as far as Pakistan’s performance in world of squash is concerned. Pakistani players failed to break into top 30 or beyond in Professional Squash Association rankings, despite tall claims being made by the federation.

Pakistani players failed to defend Asian Senior Individual Squash title, which was won by Aamir Atlas Khan in 2013. The matter of the fact was, Aamir was not even considered for selection to defend his title in Kuwait. Pakistani top players Nasir Iqbal and Farhan Zaman made it to the semi-finals of the prestigious event, where they both lost. Pakistan Squash Federation failed to appoint a permanent coach and Faheem Gul was used as part time coach. Pakistani players overall performance in the entire 2015 remained below average. Aamir Atlas left Pakistan like number of players in the past and settled in USA while Farhan Zaman also remained in USA for a quite long time before returning in the end of the year. Number of players turn their backs and refuse to attend training camp including Farhan Mehboob, Danish Atlas and others. The federation did manage to lure both these players for a short period before both players once again get annoyed with the federation as both players were unable to participate in the World Open Championship in the USA. They blamed federation for not giving promised finances, while federation on the other hand insisted they were provided enough dollars and it was players fault not federation’s they both missed world open.

The PSF is quite blessed to have a highly prestigious institute like Pakistan Air Force right behind their backs, which is shouldering the lime share of burden and providing sufficient amount of funds to run federation affairs smoothly. Otherwise in nominal annual Pakistan Sports Board grant, it could have not been possible for the federation to run day-to-day affairs f the federation. They can’t even have cleared utility bills, sending players for the PSA events and conducting for major PSA tournament sin country was not more than day dreaming.

Return of int’l squash: Few positives were witnessed during 2015 as revival of international squash was finally witnessed although very few foreign players turned up for back-to-back $25,000 events. But it was at least a ray of hope. The PSF claimed they were striving hard for the last several months to bring the international squash back to the country. Air Vice Marshal (R) Syed Razi Nawab, Senior Vice President, PSF, who is also the vice president of Asian Squash Federation along with squash legend Qamar Zaman met PSA Board of Directors in Queen's Club London with a mandate to revive international squash in Pakistan. Razi gave a comprehensive presentation to the PSA Board, which lasted for more than two hours. He offered PSA board members to visit Pakistan and see how well Pakistan deserved to organise major PSA tournaments like in the past. The PSA board realised the importance of Pakistan’s squash heritage and promised to support the PSF in the days to come.

The PSA board gave approval for Pakistan to conduct two international tournaments of $ 25,000 along with lifting of ban on foreign players to play in Pakistan. This was a great breakthrough for the PSF for seeking further tournaments as well. The PSF organised CAS International Squash Championship completely sponsored by Pakistan Air Force. Top international players from six countries participated in the championship. Unfortunately none of the Pakistani players was able to compete in the final as only hope Nasir Iqbal lost in the semi-finals against eventual winner Egyptian Mohammad Abouelghar, who beat compatriot Omar Abdel Meguid in the final. Nasir did manage to salvage some pride for the country, as he won the $25,000 President Gold Cup Squash Championship, after defeating USA’s Tom Harrity in the final, to lift the very first high-profile event of his career.

Pakistani players took full advantage of arrival of international squash to the country and game standard of Pakistani players was rapidly improved, which was clearly depicted by the result of President Gold Cup.

Training strategy paid dividends: Pakistan Squash Federation arranged rigorous training for the players before their participation in major international squash event and provided best training facilities, extra diet, playing kit and sports gear. The strategy proved highly beneficial for the players to improve their physical fitness, game technique and stamina and the showed some mixed performances by winning bronze medal in Asian Individual Championship, silver medal in World Junior championship, gold medal in Asian Junior Individual Championship, along with some outstanding performance in the PSA tournaments.

Besides being at the victory stand, they also created some major upsets by beating higher ranked players in different events.

Organising in country tournaments: During the year 2015, PSF successfully organised 4 tournaments for men two with $15,000 and two $25,000 prize money at Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad respectively.

Good show abroad: As in the past, PSF has sponsored top professional players for participation in overseas tournaments. A group of 32 Pakistani players participated in 55 international tournaments around the world ranging from the prize money of $5,000 to $ 325,000 that helped them a lot to improve their world rankings.

In year 2015 Pakistani squash players improved their game standard and won the PSA tournaments abroad. Shahjahan Khan won the NSA Open 2015 held in Canada with prize money of $5,000. Farhan Zaman won the Any Presence Open 2015 held in USA with a prize purse of $10,000. Danish Atlas won the Chicago Open 2015 held in Chicago, USA with a prize purse of $10,000.

WSA tournaments for women: Only one international tournament was organised in Pakistan and that too by Bahria Town carrying prize money of $10,000 which was won by Maria Toorpakai. Moreover, the women players participated in 12 overseas tournaments throughout the year.

National squash tournaments: As a part of the plan, five national junior tournaments for boys were organised in U-11, U-13, U-15, U-17 and U-19 category whereas one national junior tournament for girls was also organized in U-15 category.

Three national tournaments at Peshawar and Faisalabad were conducted for the senior men category, whereas, three tournaments for senior women were also conducted at Lahore, Faisalabad and Abbottabad.

International senior individual and team events: Pakistan team comprising Nasir Iqbal, Farhan Zaman, Danish Atlas and Tayyab Aslam participated in the 18th Asian Squash Individual Championship held at Kuwait in May, 2015. Nasir and Farhan showed outstanding performance and created major upsets by beating top seeds Saruav Ghosal of India and Max Lee of Hong Kong in quarter finals but both the players lost in the semi-finals.

International junior individual and team events: Asim Khan won gold medal in Doha Junior International in the 1st week of March in U-19, whereas Huzaifa Ibrahim and Kashif Asif won gold in U-11 and U-17 age groups respectively. In Qatar junior international in March, Israr Ahmad won gold medal in U-19, whereas Huzaifa Ibrahim and Kashif Asif won gold in U-11 & U17 age groups respectively. Israr Ahmad won gold medal in the Asian Junior Individual Championship held in Iran.

The WSF World Junior Individual Championship was played in Netherland in July. Pakistani contingent comprising of Tayyab Aslam, Israr Ahmad, Asim Khan, Abbas Shaukat and Ahsan Ayaz participated. Israr Ahmad, Tayyab Aslam and Asim Khan played the quarter-finals of the event.

Referees clinic: A referee’s clinic was organised at Mushaf Squash Complex, Islamabad on 30 September prior to the commencement of Chief of the Air Staff International Squash Championship. WSF referee Fahim Gul conducted the clinic and a bunch of referees from all over the country participated.

Establishment of PNSA: Long overdue, Pakistan National Squash Academy (PNSA) was finally established at Mushaf Squash Complex in Islamabad on 9th July but till date the academy is almost non-functional. The federation must involve raw talent and dig deep to find fresh breed of players, without being fully functioning the academy. The PSF hired a so-called director, Air Commodore (R) Aftab Ahmed Qureshi, who is enjoying hell lot of liberty, using official vehicle and his contribution is nothing on ground. He is busier in self-praise and worried about promoting his daughters career, rather than working on plans to engage more and more youth, he called himself super Mario coach-cum trainer, but he doesn’t know even ABC of squash or coaching.

Jahangir Khan, Jansher Khan and Qamar Zaman were taken onboard, JK and Jansher have started working with the players, but there is an urgent need of devising strategy to involve not only fresh blood, but also work on recalling back players from USA, who had turned their backs on country because of poor policies of the federation. Until and unless top players are not involved, there is no major hope of winning high-profile titles or claiming back to old golden days’ heights. Top players of the academy were awarded central contracts purely based on individuals’ performance, the cross training program was also initiated, in which Farhan Zaman was placed in USA for foreign exposure.

Continuing with the same strategy, PSF also planning to launch the academies on the same lines in other major cities like Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta. It is expected that this arrangement would greatly help in improving the game by expanding it to the grass root level in the days to come.

The 2015 sun is about to set. It is high time, rather than wasting energies and national kitty on certain individuals, the federation must come up with clear cut plan. There is an urgent need of hiring a full-time coach, possessing the ability and experience of working with top players, unlike of present coach Faheem Gul, who is a big flop in whatever capacity he had worked. He had never known for producing top class players, but is well-known to play dirty tricks and adopting policy of divide and rule. Paying handsome amount to highly reputed coach could help federation and above all country in regaining past glories sooner rather than later.

Top 20 Pakistan players in PSA Rankings

Rank Name Tournaments Points Average

39 Nasir Iqbal 13 1955.000 180.000

64 Farhan Zaman 10 880.000 88.000

73 Danish Atlas Khan 8 735.000 73.500

79 Tayyab Aslam 11 710.000 69.000

99 Shahjahan Khan 10 525.000 52.500

110 Khawaja Adil Maqbool 13 535.000 46.000

120 Farhan Mehboob 5 420.000 42.000

130 Muhammad Saqib Yousaf 12 368.000 35.500

144 Asim Khan 13 313.000 30.200

148 Amaad Fareed 11 306.000 29.500

163 Aamir Atlas Khan 4 240.000 24.000

168 Israr Ahmed 4 230.000 23.000

180 Ismail Rauf 15 274.000 19.545

187 Waqar Mehboob 4 185.000 18.500

213 Ahsan Ayaz 7 150.000 15.000

223 Abbas Shoukat 3 136.000 13.600

242 Zahir Shah 5 114.000 11.400

245 Muhammad Shoaib Hassan 6 110.000 11.000

306 Syed Hamzah Shah Bukhari 5 70.000 7.000

313 Muhammad Farhan 6 65.500 6.550