How underdog Anil Nayar became squash World Champion

Athletes often participate in competitions as underdogs but few go on and win them. And if it's a World Championship, then winning it is almost unimaginable.

Anil Nayar made history by becoming India's first squash world champion when he won the Drysdale Cup, a world championship for juniors in London back in 1965. "And I entered the competition as an underdog," he proudly told mid-day on the sidelines of the launch of his biography, Lucky—A portrait of a legendary Indian-American squash champion, written by his wife Jean Nayar, and published by Sach Sports, at the Cricket Club of India's CK Nayudu Hall on Thursday.

"I had just won the Western India squash title [in India], which was as good as the Nationals back then because there was no other national-level squash tournament at the time. I decided to enter the Drysdale Cup to see where I stand on the international stage. The Indian government paid for my ticket to London. No one in that competition had even heard about me, so I was an unknown entity. Of course, after I won it, the CCI had a huge celebration back home," recalled Nayar, 73, who is credited for pioneering the sport in the country at a time, as Jean writes in the book: "India was going through a foreign exchange crisis, and scarce currency was required for essentials like energy, infrastructure, raw material imports and often due to unpredictable monsoons, for food grains, medicines and medical equipment. Sports equipment was regarded as a non-priority item especially for "frivolous" games like squash." Yesterday, Nayar in an on-stage interaction with renowned journalist Anil Dharker, spoke of how the game has changed since the time he played in the 1960s and 1970s.

"The racquet has changed, the ball has changed and even the points system has changed. Today, squash players travel with their strength and conditioning coach, strategic coach, nutritionist etc. Back then, my coach, the legendary Yusuf Khan would encourage us to eat paratha and gosht [meat] for lunch before evening matches. That was our only nutrition," said Nayar, a 1969 Arjuna awardee.