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India must focus on structure, support staff: Major Maniam

If there is someone who can claim to know Indian squash well, he is Major S Maniam. For 14 years, Major Maniam saw Indian squash grow from an infant to a revolution. After being the backbone of Malaysian squash by producing players such as Ong Beng Hee and Nicol David, he was chosen to bring life to Indian Squash Academy (ISA) by N Ramachandran, Indian Olympic Association chief, in 2002.

India must focus on structure, support staff: Major Maniam
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Major Maniam

Chennai

After serving as the longest consultant coach for Indian squash, Major Maniam returned to Malaysia last year, taking over as the Director of the Squash Rackets Association of Malaysia but not before taking India to a different level in the sport. 

Almost a year after Major Maniam left the Indian shores, he was back to the familiar environs of the ISA with his team from Malaysia for the Asian Squash Championship.

Talking about the difference in the sport in India and Malaysia, Major Maniam pointed out that India should concentrate on having a better structure. “The qualities of a good players involve many characteristics such as fighting spirit, dedication, discipline, confidence and most importantly skill and the ability to use that skill under different situations. There are a lot of good and bad players in India and Malaysia but what can make a difference is the set-up and structure,” he said.

“In Malaysia, the structure is bigger because of funding from the government. We get quality support staff which include a psychologist, physio, a masseur, sports scientists, strength and conditioning experts etc. Unfortunately, in India, this support staff is not easily available and they should focus on that aspect immediately. They can research a player’s performance and his physical ability and that is the way to move forward,” he said. 

“The structure in India is smaller compared to the one in Malaysia. We have a bigger national development program, a bigger school program, school back-up squads (bench strength), bigger national squads and bigger international squads and that is why Malaysia is ahead in the sport. India should focus on working on these aspects,” he added. 

The 62-year-old added that international exposure to coaches acts as a catalyst for development. “In Malaysia, I have a pool of coaches who are mostly from various countries. The head coach Peter Genever is from England. Unfortunately, India has a lot of local coaches lacking quality international exposure. It is a journey to get these local coaches international exposure and that has to be one of India’s areas of work,” he noted. Commenting on the younger crop of players leaving the country for greener pastures in foreign universities, Major Maniam said India needs to create a good bench strength to tackle the issue. “Players come and players go. A classic example is Saurav Ghosal. He moved from Kolkata to Chennai and then won the British Junior Open. He later chose to move to the UK to study and play there. We lost him in that respect. 

However, it didn’t deter us to look beyond Ghosal. We came up with Velavan, Aditya Raghavan, Abhay Singh and the next bunch was ready in a flash. Now when Vela goes, we must look forward to the next breed and continue working. The harder we work, we will continue to produce the type players we want,” he explained. 

Major Maniam credited national coach Cyrus Poncha and IOA chief Ramachandran for the development of the game. “They are instrumental in directing Indian squash. The way they are working, I am sure the sport is in good hands and will grow by leaps and bounds,” he concluded. 

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