India today suffered a major disappointment as the country’s top squash players Saurav Ghosal and Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu lost to arch-rivals Pakistani player in the individual men’s semifinals in the 12th South Asian Games here.
Top seed Ghosal was out of sorts in his 4-11, 5-11, 12-10, 5-11 loss to Farhan Zaman while Sandhu did a shade better before conceding the match in the fourth game in favour of his rival second seed Nasir Iqbal, citing a right hamstring injury. Sandhu was trailing at 7-11 14-12 7-11 6-6 when he called injury time out in an ill-tempered match at the R G Baruah Sports Complex.
It is not yet known whether Sandhu would be fit to play against Ghosal for the bronze-medal match tomorrow after his injury today in the semifinal match which had seen the Indian arguing with the referee who once warned him to stop doing that.
In the women’s event, however, ace player and top seed Joshna Chinappa easily defeated her Pakistani rival Sadia Gul 11-9 11-7 11-5 in the semifinals to set up the summit clash tomorrow against another player of the western neighbours.
As expected, the Indians and Pakistanis met at the semifinals and both were tense affairs. Pakistan had won both the gold and silver in men’s individual event in the last edition of the Games in 2010 but the Indians had come here high on confidence after an upswing recently.
Ghosal had won a silver in the 2014 Asian Games and he is currently the highest ranked Asian in the world at number 20 and the home side is keen to end Pakistan’s domination in SAG.
But, nothing went right for the men’s players as Sandhu and Ghosal were simply the second best today as they also conceded later.
Sandhu was the first to take the court and he straightaway took a 5-1 lead in the first game but from then onwards, the Pakistani number one player fought back superbly to win it 11-7.
Egged on by the home crowd at the newly built facility, Sandhu fought back by winning the second game 14-12 after a close tussle but failed to maintain the momentum by losing the third 7-11.
The fourth game saw both rivals neck and neck and there were loud protests towards the referee for obstructions and during one long rally Sandhu’s backside of the thigh was seen to have been hit by his Pakistani opponent.
Sandhu continued for the next next point and at 6-6, he called for a three-minute injury time out which was contested by the Pakistani player and team management, saying that it was not under the rules. The referee initially refused
Sandhu’s plea but after consulting the technical delegates, allowed it.