Monday, May 20, 2024

Why revamped World Cup has place on squash calendar

There will be a squash World Cup in Chennai, India, this year. That is about as much as we know at this stage, other than it will be a mixed gender team event and “revamped” from when it was last held in 2011.

At the WSF congress last autumn, president Zena Wooldridge hinted that the Indian city could host the 2025 event as well, suggesting that there will be a continual place on the calendar following a multi-year deal.

Whether the event – held at Chennai’s Express Avenue Mall 12 years ago with a $50,000 top prize – will be a shortened format, either best of three or even seven, remains to be seen. But there certainly seems to be a place on the PSA/WSF calendar for a regular event first staged in Kuala Lumpur in 1996 and only twice since at senior level. More so when you consider that there is no global nations event outside of the regular European or World Team Championships.

In November, a best-of-seven games scoring format was used throughout the inaugural four-day Nations Cup Squash event in New Zealand, with each game first to seven points.

I didn’t know what to expect and even with the power play the crowd absolutely loved it,” Sarah-Jane Perry, who played for England, told Squash Mad recently. 

Here, each player could opt for a power play twice in the match, where he or she could win two points in the eight nation event. “I loved it to be honest,” added Perry, who is also PSA women’s president.

“The best of three, if you asked me in the beginning, I was against it as you would take the physicality out of it.

“But the sport has changed so much in that time and now you have to be quicker, it’s fast and mentally you have to think differently.”

As Perry said, for all the PSA events on tour, a mix of events which aren’t all best-of-five is key in terms of variety. “As long as the sponsors and fans like it, we are the entertainers and we need to do what they want to do,” she said.

Perry played with Mohamed Elshorbagy, who will play the European Team Championships and World Teams in 2023 for England.

“We are so individual, but I was talking to SJ alot and I learnt to become a team player from her. I can’t wait to play the Europeans,” said Elshorbagy.

While the squash purists may be against these types of formats, the Nations Cup event at the Trustpower Baypark Arena in Tauranga had some strong local backing and sponsorship and was a welcome tonic from the cut and thrust of PSA World Tour life.

Egypt beat England to the World Cup title in 2011

“You speak to casual squash fans or those new to squash,” Perry added, “and they enjoy seeing new players and aren’t bothered by the brevity of some of the matches. They get to see a lot of players in the same amount of time. 

“There is a place for it and it shouldn’t be at every tournament. There is a place in certain situations. If you are adding more events into the schedule of the players, then bringing in the best of three keeps the players safer from injuries and allows them to play without increasing playing time too much.”

Following the 2011 event, then WSF chief Andrew Shelley said: “World Cups are synonymous with the very best. The top cricketers are playing theirs at the moment, and the world stops for football’s. Ours may not command quite the same level of media attention as the other two, but we have an ingredient they do not – mixed teams.”

In an era of increasing shortened format sports, the re-emergence of the World Cup also comes at a time when world squash officials will be collating their bid book for another stab at Olympic inclusion for Los Angeles 2028. Mixed gender? Economical value of drop in courts at existing, eye-catching venues? Once again the sport has everything it needs to sway IOC suits as squash carries on.

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