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Squash Can't Keep Pace With World Demand

In January 1955 the Daily News in Australia proclaimed that ‘No game since World War II has achieved such popularity as squash racquets’. See the article about the state of the game at that time here.

Daily News, Australia, Jan 1955

Squash Can't Keep Pace with World Demand

From James Fleet in London

No game since World War II has achieved such popularity as squash racquets. It is a must on the list of anyone who wants to keep superbly fit. Owing to heavy building restrictions, it has not been possible to keep pace with the demand for courts in the United Kingdom. The only new courts to have been constructed in seven years are for the Services.

Squash enthusiasts are an uncomplaining group of people. Rarely do they voice their feelings over the waiting lists on which they now find themselves for famous clubs. They are happy to be able to play wherever they can obtain a game— even if it be in what was once the court of the more senior game of Racquets—at Queen's Club in London.

The majority of players are amateurs m the truest sense of the word—it matters not whether it be in America, India, Egypt or Australia where the game is currently booming. The best among them are in regular demand for matches and travel long or short distances at their own expense for the sake of a game.

Only recently the Women's Squash Association received a request from Australia to send two British players out there next year. It is hoped that Miss Janet Morgan and Miss Sheila Speight, Britain's two leading players, will make the trip. Finance is the difficulty. BOTH are working women," Mrs. Ian McKechnie, their chairman, told me when discussing the proposed trip. "They will have to be able to get there and back in about eight weeks at most, which cuts out sea travel. "Neither the association nor the girls themselves can afford air passages, and the Australian association has only recently been formed.

"They have not much money to meet expenses either, but if it is humanly possible we must send our pair out so as to give them an idea of top level women's play." That is the spirit of squash.

The Squash Association, which controls the game throughout the world, has a two-roomed headquarters in the centre of London. It is entirely responsible for organising all the major British events, yet its purse must be the slimmest in sport. This is because only 200 people at the most can watch a top class match at any time because of the shape of the court and its confining walls.

Undoubtedly Hashim Khan, who has received a grant of £800 from the Pakistan Government so that he can defend his Open title in London at the end of March, is the greatest player in the world today. I do not think any of his biggest rivals are likely to succeed in their mission. The fastest man about the court today, he knows everything about the game and can play the hardest drive or the gentlest drop shot with equal aplomb.

His ability for the game has earned him virtually nothing in four years at the top of the tree. He teaches the game to the Royal Pakistan Air Force at Peshawar, and it is some measure of the respect that he has won that his Government should make him the grant.

But consider the position in comparison with a top golf professional, who can earn large sums in one tournament alone; or with the benefits that a football er gets after five years with a club; or even with the salary and benefit of a cricket professional or baseball player. None of them would ever be given a government grant so that they could defend the world title in these sports.

The American court is a different size from the British and even American balls and racquets are different. This may be one reason why the Americans will not be opposing Hashim. On the other hand, I cannot see any of them ever considering, even if they are professionals, the expense of a trip to Britain for the title. Financially it is not worth their while, nor for that matter anyone else's.

The Indian we shall probably see in 'action is Abdel Bari, formerly of Bombay and more recently with a leading London club. The Egyptian—if he travels—will be Mahmoud el Karim, who first visited Britain as a protege of King Farouk. We might see a leading South African, former amateur champion Peter Hildick Smith, in the fray.

Among the leading British challengers (who may well be nearly all amateurs) will be Alan Fairbairn, equally renowned as a cricketer; Norman Borrett, an Olympic hockey player, and Robin Wilson.

With Hashim's brother Azam Khan, they should be the last nine remaining from an original entry of 64.


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