It was another India vs. Pakistan match, but this time not a cricket match but rather a squash match, and what is at stake? A match to determine the gold medalist in the men’s team event at the 2022 Asian Games is being held in Hangzhou. And boy, didn’t it live up to expectations! A match worthy of being called a gold medal match where India rose like a phoenix from the ashes and secured a hard-fought, nerve-wracking 2-1 victory over their arch-rivals after being 2 match points down.
Pakistan had already defeated India by a similar margin in the group stages and was the favorite to again topple their neighbors. However, India was determined to clinch only its second-ever gold in squash at the Asian Games since the sport became part of the quadrennial event in 1998.
Having said that, the SauravGhoshal-led team didn’t have an auspicious start as Mahesh Mangaonkar went down rather tamely in straight sets in the first match.
In came the legend of the sport, Ghoshal, who showed the wide gulf between him and the rest of the players playing the final as he brushed aside his opponent in another straight-set match to level things out for India. Till this point, the gold medal match as a whole was not proving to be exciting enough. This, though, changed rather quickly in the decider.
Abhay Singh, who gave India a decisive lead against Hong Kong, China, in the semifinal before Saurav sealed the deal, became the hero of the team. He came back from one set to two down and saved two match points in the last set to edge past Noor Zaman 11-7, 9-11, 8-11, 11-9, 12-10 and send the Indian men’s and women’s teams present in attendance to support him into a frenzy.
Numerous times, it looked as if Pakistan would take the gold, but India kept coming back, just like they do most of the time in cricket.
India has been constantly on the podium in squash, but they haven’t actually dominated it at the Asian Games. Since its inception in Bangkok in 1998, this is only the second time India has clinched the yellow metal.
They first stood on the top of the podium when the men’s team defeated Malaysia at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games. Interestingly, three of the four members of the current team were part of that historic moment nine years ago, with Abhay Singh as the only new addition to the team.
In total India has won 15 medals in squash in Asian Games, which include 3 silver and 10 bronze medals, besides the 2 golds. Out of 15, India alone won 5 medals in the 2018 edition held in Jakarta, their best-ever medal haul. The team events have been taking place since 2010 and in 4 outings, the men’s team now has 2 gold medals and one each by Pakistan and Malaysia.
Squash in Hangzhou this time around too has begun on a positive note for India, as they have two medals in two events as of now. While the men’s team went on to clinch first place, the women’s team had to settle for a bronze after losing out to Hong Kong, China, 1-2 in the semifinal. With singles and mixed events yet to begin, India is expected to clinch a few more medals and will be looking to overhaul the tally of five medals won in 2018.
Kushagra is an avid follower and writer of Tennis. Apart from tennis, he is also a sports enthusiast, which means he keeps a vigilant eye on almost every other sport, be it cricket or an Olympic sport. He doesn't like to miss any action.
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