The Telegraph
Tuesday , March 26 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Battle and bonhomie at the Saturday club

They met each other first in 2011. And, over the next couple of years, the bond has only grown stronger. The couple in question? The Cricket Club of India (Mumbai) and The Saturday Club.

A 25-member CCI team was recently in town for a weekend of squash and badminton. And, going by the scoreline (4-3 for both squash and badminton in a best-of-seven format), it was a fiercely-fought tourney with the host club trumping the visitors in badminton and the CCI returning the favour in squash!

But underlining some serious competition was a great carnival spirit. “The Cricket Club of India is playing for the second time in Calcutta and this is also my second tour. It’s a very good way of actually bringing people together through the medium of sports and it is such a beautiful concept that we initiated. There is nothing like sports to know the actual character and personality of an individual,” said Vipul Dalal, a member of the CCI squash team for whom such a trip is more like a “marriage ceremony”!

“The host club invites the other club, between 10-12 players of different ages, taking care of everything, starting from arrival at the airport. Typically, we do it from a Friday to a Sunday. Besides matches, there are get-togethers, dinners... so it is building excellent relations through sports,” he said.

The Saturday Club and CCI had started with squash and from last year, have included badminton. The Wood Street club plans to add snooker, billiards and tennis next year. “Hopefully this tournament will become an annual affair and the youngsters will take it forward,” said Vishal Nayar, the sports convener of Saturday Club, who could only cheer from the sidelines thanks to a bad spider lick, that left him with a bruised neck! Badminton captain of Saturday Club, Rohit Kapur, however, fought it out. “The last game went down to the wire. We are going to CCI in September,” he shared.

Saturday Club ensured that the visitors had a great time. “They are excellent hosts... their facilities and their players,” said Dalal from CCI. For CCI badminton captain Deepak Jaitley, it is one trip that he eagerly looks forward to. And on his second trip to Calcutta, he and his teammates packed in some sight-seeing (read Victoria Memorial and Howrah Bridge) along with a trip to some Bengali restaurants. “I am a vegetarian, so I had limited options, but the others really enjoyed their prawn and fish,” he smiled.

When it’s Mumbai and CCI, a certain Little Master invariably makes his way into the conversation. So, should Sachin Tendulkar call it quits? “No... no... he is terrific and he should continue!” signed off Dalal.

Rishad Pandole, CCI’s star squash player, tells t2 why squash is a hard game to play...

I work full-time. Squash is not my profession but I love it. As a youngster, I did everything: swam, ran cross-country, did a little boxing, hockey, football. Now, it’s just squash.

I have been playing squash since I was eight. I have played in Calcutta about 22 years ago and this is my first visit since then. This game doesn’t come easy to anyone... you have to play it hard, spend a lot of time on the court, practising, getting your shots in.... My strength is that I keep the ball fairly tight. I have been working a lot on my fitness. So, I feel for my age (39), my fitness is one of my strengths. I am able to hang in there with 20-25-year-olds.

I have represented India in U-19 at the World Junior Squash Championships in Hong Kong. I played number one for the Indian junior team. After that I went to college and spent a few years in the US. I have been playing a little bit on the circuit from 2004 after I came back. I am still in the top 10 in the men’s open category.

From a fitness perspective, the core area is speed and being able to maintain your optimum speed for one-and-a-half hours.

To maintain my fitness and speed, at my age, I am putting in twice the effort than 25-year-olds. It involves a lot of short-distance squat runs, shadow shots, a lot of time in the gym, a bit of middle-distance running, ladder drills... all, mainly geared around improving my speed.

I am sensible about what I eat, but no strict diets for me. If I feel, I will have ice cream and French fries... maybe once a week. As youngsters, you need to have a good sleeping pattern. They tend to party and then sleep for four-five hours and then train. The body is not going to like that.