Saturday turned out to be a day of India-Pakistan rivalry at the Asian Games, with the Indians emerging triumphant in all the battles.
First, India fought off their neighbours for the squash gold, and then the hockey men recorded their biggest-ever win (10-2) over the arch-rivals in a pool match. While the hockey match was completely one-sided, the squash duel went down the wire.
Abhay Singh won the battle of attrition against Noor Zaman as top seeds India regained the Asian Games squash gold with an epic 2-1 win over Pakistan.
Malaysia and Pakistan, the sport’s powerhouse in the yesteryears, were India’s biggest challenge in the squash team event. The Saurav Ghosal-led side managed to see off both the opponents on their way to glory.
The win in the final against Pakistan came after the loss to the same opponents in the league stage.
Zaman, ranked 113, had got the better of world No. 69 Abhay in that contest earlier this week and for the major part of the match on Saturday, it looked like going in Pakistan’s favour again.
With the final locked at 1-1 after Ghosal and Nasir Iqbal won their respective singles, the gold was going to be decided in the match between 25-year-old Abhay and teenager Zaman.
Zaman led 9-7 in the fourth game and had two match balls at 10-8 in the deciding game, but the Indian somehow managed to turn it around. The final scoreline read 11-7, 9-11, 8-11, 11-9, 12-10.
Asked what did Ghosal say to him between his second and third games, Abhay said: “It was not really a pep talk, he’s the GOAT (greatest of all time). To have him in your corner, just to be there for you, it’s emotionally very comforting, looking out at him.”
“Considering the circumstances, it was surely the biggest win of Abhay’s career,” said Ghosal, the highest-ranked Indian at 19.
Ghosal fought back with an 11-5, 11-1, 11-3 win over Muhammad Asim Khan after Mahesh Mangaonkar lost the opener to Iqbal Nasir 8-11, 2-11. 3-11.
India last won a men’s team squash gold in the 2014 edition of the Games in Incheon. Pakistan last claimed gold in the 2010 edition.
With inputs from PTI