Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Age is no Barrier

Imagine you are a junior. Now imagine you were playing in an age category tournament – the under 13’s for example – and your first round opponent walked on court sporting a three-day growth, was 100 pounds heavier than you, and had a 17 year old girlfriend watching outside. You’d think, “geez, looks a little old to be 12”, wouldn’t you?

Now imagine that the above scenario is not a rarity, but is in fact the norm. Welcome to Pakistani junior squash.

As far-fetched as it sounds, it has become so routine that (reportedly) up 60% of juniors competing in underage events (under 11, 13, 15, 17 and 19) are in fact overage. In one draw of a recent under 19 event it was found that only 4 of the 22 entrants were in fact less than 19 years old.

From what I can gather, Pakistan does not mandate parents to register their newborns. Understandably so when you consider their population, a large number of which live in rural areas, corrupt officials, which would lead to inefficient recording systems and inaccuracies.

One can only presume that if a junior squash player enters a tournament and must provide their age and don’t have a legitimate birth certificate, they are “guessing”. Or lying. And, you may think, if the junior wasn’t sure exactly how old they were, they could probably estimate within a year or two. So if a 15 year old squeezes into the under 15 category, it may be an honest mistake. But that isn’t what’s happening either.

Subtlety, it appears, doesn’t exist in Pakistan. If you are going to lie, may as well go all the way, no? Reports had it that the overage players in the above mentioned example were so visibly older, it was easily detectable. At one event, a player said to be 17 years old was competing in the under 11 draw. Are you kidding me? Unless the lad had some type of growth disease, how could he possibly stand there and claim to be 10? His opponent did complain to the officials, who subsequently ignored him and allowed the 17 year old to play anyway. (I don’t know who won, but I think I can guess.)

No doubt through the sheer weight of complaints, and that Pakistan has become a laughing stock at the international level, the PSF (Pakistan Squash Federation) has put together a committee to start medically examining the players to determine their correct age. How they test them is unclear, but I did read one report that they were using the “armpit” method. I can’t figure out what that is, but it sounds awfully dodgy and old-fashioned to me. (Maybe a reader could explain it to us?)

However, the PSF can implement all the committees and rules it likes. The difficult part is getting all the provincial associations to abide by them. Which it seems they aren’t, and won’t. Only one province is actually conducting tests, but even that looks crooked since the PSF isn’t involved in these tests and won’t - or can’t – recognize them.

Hamza Bokhari (right). This
photo was taken in 2009 when
he won an U/17 event in Asia.
He is listed as being born on
Dec. 31, 1993 which would
have made him 15 at the time.

Not that the PSF can stand there and claim to be all righteous either. They are responsible for sending the Pakistan U-19 Team to the World Junior Championships in July. It is claimed that all four players of that team are overage too. Including Hamza Bokhari. Hamza was considered to be too old for the under 19’s three years ago, but somehow, has turned back the clock and finds himself once again eligible. And looking through his player profile on-line he turned pro in 2006 – which would have made him 12 years old the time. I don’t care how good he was at aged 12, there is no way he was a pro. In fact, after searching through a handful of Pakistan players on-line, I found six of them that all turned pro between the ages of 12 and 15. Remarkable. That’s some junior program they must have.

Naturally, this is all speculation. Innocent until proven guilty, right? It’s impossible to prove anything without authentic birth certificates. And is there even a medical exam that exists that can accurately determine exactly how old a person is? (I am presuming the ‘armpit’ method isn’t it.) These rumors about overage players are nothing new. In fact, I clearly remember it was a topic of discussion when I was a junior over 20 years ago. Nothing was done about it then, and, it appears, nothing seriously is being done about it now.

So what to do? There is really nothing the WSF (World Squash Federation) can do to stop Pakistan in how they conduct their associations. If they want to cheat (yes, I said ‘cheat’), then so be it. Unless the WSF can come up with a method that categorically proves age, they can’t ban them from competing either and simply have to take their word for it. Until that time, I guess the junior squash world will have to put up with being lied to, know that they are being lied to, put on a smiley face and take it.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Are you as Think as you Smart you are?

Timed-Handicap-Quiz Team Squash Tournament – Wednesday, July 11

Any “Jeopardy” experts out there? In this unique tournament format, squash will not be only thing in which you will need to be successful. I am also going to test just how smart you all are. Playing squash will be the easy part – if you can play non-stop for 20 minutes that is.

I know, I know, 20 minutes does not sound that long. But how many of you have really played that long without stopping? Seriously – no water break, no time-out, no 90 second between game rests – just 20 minutes of continuous rallying. Here is how it will work: You will placed onto one of two teams. Everyone will get one squash match of 20 minutes. You will want to accumulate as many points as possible. In the case where I can’t match up two players of the same standard, I will be awarding handicaps.

Once the squash is finished, each team will have to get together to complete a quiz. Each question is worth a certain amount of points. Questions will be based on your familiarity of the DAC, world squash, and overall general knowledge. Electronic devices will be banned for this portion of the event. Except for the defibrillator – someone may need that. And, if some of your answers are similar to the ones I received when we ran this event a few years ago, that someone may be me.

Given that I survive, I will then add up all the squash points of each team, add on the quiz points, to get your grand total. The winning team will be able to attack the prize table first. I have no idea what the prizes will be, but I will be collecting bits and pieces from around the club that departments wish to unload.

Oh – there will be a keg to attack too. Take note, though, that drinking beer probably does not make you a better squash player, or any smarter. Or sexier – especially sexier. But I am sure some of you may want to debunk that theory… Matches start at 5.30pm and I expect it to go through to around 7.30pm. It of course depends on the amount of entries. We need a minimum 14 players to run it.

Get your name in before July 9. And start watching Alex Trebek. But don’t write your answers on the quiz in the form of a question, I’ll deduct points for that…

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Here, Hashim discusses a popular never-ending debate (argument!) among squash enthusiasts – Who is the greatest ever squash player? His answer is somewhat predictable, his logic makes sense, so it’s difficult to argue his point.

However, keep in mind this was written in 1985, so there were many ‘future’ champions yet to establish themselves. Hashim doesn’t even mention Jahangir Khan who was in the middle of his incredible 555 match win-streak at the time and his name is always leading any discussion on this topic. Then Jansher Khan arrived on the scene in 1986 to continue the ‘Khan’ dynasty and dominance of the game. And more recently, the names of Jon Power, Peter Nicol, David Palmer have all made cases for themselves.

It is impossible to compare eras. You can base it on records and titles won, but the sport evolves, the depth of competition increases, there are many factors to take into account. One thing you cannot argue about is that Hashim Khan belongs on that list – and close to the top of it.

Hashim mentions Geoff Hunt on these pages (he spells it ‘Jeff’). I was coached by Geoff Hunt at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) back in 1988-1989. Geoff – along with Jonah Barrington – changed the fitness component of the sport in their days of supremacy (mainly the 70’s). They raised the fitness level bar to extraordinary heights and were known to physically (and mentally) destroy their opponents by keeping them on court for as long as possible. Geoff pushed that philosophy onto us - I remember (vividly) having to run 440’s at 6.30am three times a week and do a 6-10 mile run on the other 3 days (Sunday was rest day… gee, thanks!). That’s in addition to the mid-morning and afternoon squash sessions. Needless to say, we were pretty fit – and loved Sundays.

To see all the blog articles on Hashim, go to: http://www.thesquashjoint.blogspot.com/search/label/Hashim%20Khan

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Summer League round 5~~

It seems the bottom four teams want to make it as easy as possible for the top four to reach the finals. With two rounds to play and 18 points separating 5th placed “Lord of the Tins” from a play-off berth, there is very little pressure being applied. “The Snooze Brothers” will need to probably triple their current score in the remaining weeks to even have a ghost of a chance of making it. Looks like they have truly lived up to their name.

The top two teams play next week and could help each other out in securing those spots if they keep their current trend of turning up and playing matches. It is difficult right now to see any significant changes over the final 2 weeks to the standings, or any of the bottom four teams presenting a serious challenge for the finals. The ‘good’ news, I suppose, is that there is still 3 weeks to get matches in – albeit Independence Day Holiday is in the middle of it and I am sure many will be away on vacation anyway. But you never know, and that is why you play the game and not award winners based on paper predictions.

Tom Bergh
 It was a relatively quiet evening of matches for round 5, so there are not too many matches to write about. Tom Bergh (“Lord of the Tins”) picked up his second win of the season beating James Stuntz (“The Snooze Brothers”) 2-1. James is new to the game and has been on a tough learning curve so far but he is starting to improve – even though he didn’t win the match, this was the first game James has won. I don’t say this to embarrass him – on the contrary. Being new to the league, I wasn’t sure where to place him on the team and consequently I stuck him a position too high. That’s my fault – I congratulate James for sticking with it!

I watched some of the Joe Schaden (“Lord of the Tins”) versus Anil Kathuria (“The Snooze Brothers”) match-up. Joe scored a close 3-0 victory, (improving his season record to 4and 1) but I mention the game for pure entertainment value. It appeared that both players wanted to make winning as hard as possible for themselves as rallies kept going on and on and on, not until a tin or a winner was hit, but until one of them simply couldn’t run anymore and fatigue got the better of them! Opportunities to end the point were politely refused and instead the ball was played to a position just close enough for the other to scramble to and stay in the rally.

So onto round 6. I dearly hope the teams 5th – 8th start making a substantial push and tighten up the standings. At least make the others sweat a little… it is the summer after all!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Olympic Squash Doublezzzzzz……

You would think that as the WSF (World Squash Federation) prepare their bid to finally get squash onto the Olympic agenda for the 2020 games, they would put their best foot forward, showcase nothing but the finest the sport can offer. Highlight the athleticism, the unfathomable fitness levels of the players, the world wide diversity, there are so many positives to draw from as the list goes on and on. With their 2020 bid brochure, you can be the judge whether or not they have achieved just that: 2020 Squash Brochure  

Lots of pretty pictures. Even though I don’t like the presentation of the pages where there is only text, it’s not too bad. What you don’t see is any reference to squash doubles. If squash gets accepted into the Olympics, it won’t only be the singles version receiving medals.

I’m not talking about the US doubles version – the hardball version we play at the DAC – I’m talking about the softball doubles version. Yes, the version I bet none of you (DAC members) not only have never played, but have never even seen played. Or even seen a court. Or even know where to find one. Or know the rules. Or – most importantly – care. So why on earth does squash doubles need to be included?

Alas, this red-headed stepchild subspecies of squash exists. And if squash is successful in its bid, it will be Olympic. Since no one is familiar with it, you can click here to view a sample. If you can force yourself to sit through at least the first rally of the clip – which takes 1 minute and 26 seconds – world number 1, James Willstrop (the one in the red shirt), hits the ball only once – 59 seconds in. Otherwise the majority of the exchange is comprised of the two ladies having I-can-hit-it-harder-than-you cross-court practice. It looks like they are warming up. Clearly they are making every attempt to avoid hitting it to either of the fellas – who may as well not even be standing on the court. It is not just dull, it’s embarrassing and absurd – it’s everything squash singles isn’t.

Squash is part of the Commonwealth Games. In 2006 in Melbourne, squash doubles made headlines not because of the quality of the game, but for the sheer boredom of it. Now, this has nothing to do with the players – they are fighting for medals and understandably will do what it takes to win for their country. Even if it means staying on the court for hours. Which they did. The Men’s final was won by England over Australia three games to one. Thankfully there was not a fifth game – the four they played took 3 hours and 17 minutes. Zzzzz... Zzzzz... Zzzzz... I am a squash addict, but I much rather stab myself in the head with a pitchfork than have to watch 200 minutes of squash doubles.

Is this the advertisement the WSF wants to present to the Olympics? Because if it is, why isn’t there any indication (photos) of doubles in the brochure? And if it isn’t, why is it on the agenda?

The doubles court is obviously larger than the singles court. It’s the same length, but wider. A lot wider. In fact it’s over 6 and a half feet wider at 27.63 feet. How they came up with that measurement is beyond me. Even converting it to metric, its 8.42 meters… seems an awfully random number.  And the tin is lower. The tin of a normal sized singles squash court for amateurs is 19 inches high, of the clip above, the tin is 17 inches high. Now, in order to make the doubles game more ‘exciting’, the WSF just announced it will lower the tin to 13 inches. Improvement? Sure, I suppose. It couldn’t be worse. Hopefully it will make the matches shorter and prevent anyone crazy enough to actually watch it from slipping into a catatonic state. But in reality, the entire idea of including doubles on the Olympic program should be scrapped. I believe it hurts squash’s chances of being accepted rather than helps.

So why is it in the discussion in the first place? There is no international doubles ranking. Nor is there a doubles tour. Hence, the players competing are hardly doubles ‘specialists’. The only time these players actually play doubles is during special competitions such as the Commonwealth Games. It seems to be there solely for the purpose to award more medals. Is it an Olympic requirement (in which case, squash has no choice but to shoot itself in the foot), or, is it because the WSF feels they need to be just like tennis, badminton and table tennis where they do have legitimate doubles categories? It’s not as if the players have dedicated years of their life training and perfecting their craft for the doubles court.

Squash should be Olympic. There is no doubt about that. But it should be squash singles. And only singles. Nick Matthew, James Willstrop, Ramy Ashour, Greg Gaultier (amongst others) – these guys are the heart and soul of what our phenomenal sport is all about. It’s a waste of time forcing them to play doubles. WSF should pour 100% of their efforts into the singles game, sell to the Olympic Committee the reasons squash is the greatest of all the sports. You cannot possibly do that with doubles in the mix.

The Olympic Committee will make their decision on which sport to include into to 2020 Games in September 2013.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Who Ya Gonna Call? BOAST-BUSTERS!

Summer League round 4~~

You just know I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity and using this cheesy title for the article! “Boast-Busters” had the best night out of all the teams picking up 18 points – 5 more than the next best “Tired in 60 Seconds” and “Framer versus Framer” – and have now solidified themselves atop of the standings. With only 3 rounds to go before the finals start, they are in excellent shape.

And so is the team ranked 2nd. “Robodrops” are only 3 points back of the league leaders. The 3rd and 4th ranked teams also enjoy a little cushion but it isn’t as comfortable. Just 9 points separate them from the chasing pack, which is important considering only the top 4 teams will advance to the play-offs, but 9 points translates into 3 wins if the other teams can start to make up some matches. “The Snooze Brothers” have fallen asleep on the job and have dropped way behind averaging less than 7 points per round. With only a total of 9 bonus points so far, it is not difficult to see why. 

A young and spightly Joe Moran!

With sixteen matches played last night, there was plenty of close contests. Dave Devine (“Robodrops”) succeeded in overcoming the relentless lob / drop attack of Jerry Rock (“Lord of the Tins”) 2-1; Joey Gaylord (“Framer versus Framer”) had the narrowest 3-0 win of the round over Bill Seymour (“Not So Great Expectations”) 15-14, 15-14, 15-7; Sante Fratarcangeli (“Tired in 60 Seconds”) knocked off Patrick Petz (“Boast-Busters”) 2-1; and Joe Moran (“Boast-Busters”) was surprised that his experience actually does count for something after beating Dane Fossee (“Tired in 60 Seconds”) who is according to Joe over 100 years his junior (give-or-take!) 2-1. Dane was not even born when Joe had started playing squash. (Or come to think of it, when I started playing either… *sigh*)

As mentioned above, there are only 3 rounds to play before the play-offs. You do, however, have 4 weeks to play them in since there isn’t anything scheduled for July 2 – the Monday before Independence Day. So, the deadline to have your results to me is July 10 inclusive. On the morning of July 11 – a Wednesday – I will be sending out the schedule for the semi-finals which will be on July 16. No excuses.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


That's Hashim on the right.
I don't know who the fellow on the left is.
Picking up where we left off, Hashim continues with his summary of his life to date. (That date being 27 years ago!) For those who are wondering, Hashim is still alive and kicking, albeit at 96 years old I doubt he graces the court very often.

Detroit is mentioned in these pages and I’m sure some of our long-term members remember the days when Hashim ruled the Motor City. He now resides in Denver, where I briefly met him back in 1996 (I think) during a PSA tournament at the Denver Athletic Club. Hashim was 80 years old and was playing a hardball doubles event with a partner older than he was. It was my first ever exposure to hardball doubles – I found it somewhat bemusing (the game, not Hashim!). From what I remember, even though he couldn't cover the court very quickly, he appeared to have extra sensory perception and it was as if he knew exactly where the next ball was going to be played. Uncanny anticipation. And a clean hitter. I don’t know if he won or not, but after watching for the ten minutes or so that I did, I can't imagaine he lost.

To see all the blog articles on Hashim, go to: Hashim Khan  

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