Asian Games: Abhay Singh wins from brink of defeat as India beat Pakistan to win squash team gold

Asian Games: Abhay Singh wins from brink of defeat as India beat Pakistan to win squash team gold

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Squash

Hangzhou, Sep 30 (IANS) Having fought back his way into the match by winning the fourth game for a 2-2 score in the deciding third match in the Men's squash final at the Asian Games on Saturday, India's Abhay Singh was staring down the barrel 8-10 down in the fifth game against Noor Zaman of Pakistan.

For the layman, the Indian players looked down and out as he was facing the match ball after winning the first game. But the 25-year-old Indian showed nerves of steel as he scripted a sensational comeback and won the next four points, leaving the Pakistan player exasperated with his tenacity, skills and never-say-die attitude that scripted a famous victory for India.

This win will be etched in the history of Indian squash as one of the best wins and the fact it came against Pakistan, to whom India had lost in the preliminary league, So, it was sweet revenge for India as the team came back strongly to win the gold medal. This is India's second gold medal in Team competition in the Asian Games, after their maiden triumph in the 2014 Games in Incheon. While Squash made its Asian Games debut only in 1998 in Bangkok, the team competitions started only in 2010 in Guangzhou. Malaysia won the title in 2018 while the Indian team had to be satisfied with a bronze medal.

On Saturday, the seasoned Saurav Ghosal made it possible for India, pulling the team back from losing the first match before Abhay Singh pulled them back again to embrace victory from the jaws of defeat.

So, playing only the fourth men's team final in the Asian Games, India started on a poor note as Mahesh Mangaonkar lost to Niash Iqbal 8-11, 3-11, 2-11 in 29 minutes.

Ghosal defeated Muhammad Asim Khan 3-0 in the second match, running circles around the Pakistan players with his deceptive drops and short balls to win 11-5, 11-1, 11-3 in 30 minutes. The match was in total contrast to the opener between Mangaonkar and Niash Iqbal where the Mumbai-basked Indian tried to his physical presence to intimidate the Pakistani opponent and got frustrated when the referee did not rule in his favour.

Ghosal was calm and determined and used his mind to outplay his opponent.

Abhay Singh was a mixture of calm determination and emotion at the same time, losing steam in the final moments as he threw his racquet that landed way back into the crowd.

"When we lost to Pakistan earlier in the Asian Games, I thought they (Abhay Singh and Mahesh Mangaonkar) were too emotional and thus lost their matches, this is my personal opinion and I conveyed it to them. I told them that they would have been stronger and won their matches if they had been calm. Today Abhay was a lot calmer and for him to come back from match ball down and win it is sensational," said Saurav Ghosal after India's 3-2 victory over Pakistan that clinched victory for India.

Ranked as the top seed, India had easy 3-0 wins against Singapore, Qatar and Kuwait in Pool A before their march was halted by Pakistan by a 2-1 victory.

India made it to the semifinals where they played Malaysia and scripted a superb 2-0 win setting up a second clash with Pakistan. Saurav Ghosal said it was hard for India on both days.

Ghosal said he knew they would face Pakistan again and kept telling his teammates to stay calm in that match and not to succumb to emotions and nerves. 

"I knew from the start that we would have a second chance against Pakistan. Losing to Pakistan was no disgrace. They are a top team and they have proved that over the years and they have proved it here. So I was just telling the guys that 'look that there are going to be people that will say 'they were top seeds,' there is going to be pressure for that. People are going to be saying 'Oh, they lost and blah, blah, blah'. It doesn't change that we are starting from 0-0. It doesn't change the fact that we have put in everything we have," Ghosal said.

Abhay Singh termed it the best win of his career and said he got a lot of support and encouragement from Saurav Ghosal. "He kept telling me to keep calm that I can do it. It was a very emotional moment for me and I just let it off after winning the match," he said. 

Asked what was going through his mind when he was facing the match ball, Abhay Singh said, he just telling himself to fight on, just think of the next point and forget the fact that it was the match ball.

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