Image Credits: Kulvir Sharma
Embarking on his journey with Squash as a curious little boy in school, Kulvir Sharma continues to scale new heights – on and off the court.
A towering and elegant player who almost excels in everything he does. Studies, sports, music and basically everything he has done, shone.
So far in his fledgling career, he has won SGFI Championship (National Games) - Bengal Junior Open, Silver Spring Open, Uttrakhand Squash Championship and IPSC but the one that always stands above the rest, he says is the pride of playing for the country, with “India” written on the back of his t-shirt.
Those who know him boast that Kulvir’s key quality is his mentality and modesty. He is a tall, strong, quick and very skilful player who has been turning heads, garnering many compliments and has quite afuture ahead of him.
Currently ranked No.1 in the state and 4th at the U-17 National Rankings, Kulvir takes us through the path travelled thus far and shares his insights on the journey ahead.
Would you be able to give us a little insight into your background and can you tell us a bit about your first steps into becoming a Squash player?
I was always inclined towards sports and have tried many different sports throughout my childhood, including squash. But I was able to take up my passion seriously only after I moved to Mayo College Ajmer in grade 7. The right guidance along with the required exposure in the sport is what helped me bud as a squash player.
What was the first match you watched on TV and who are your top favourite Squash players of all time?
The first match that I watched was the finals of the El Gouna International 2015 played between Mohammed Elshorbagy and Ramy Ashour, both from Egypt. I remember this match precisely till today as the display of talent and dedication by both the players was fabulous! Ashour and Elshorbagy found a deep place in my heart thereafter.
As a young player, who were some of the people that you looked up to for guidance? Who were the people you would speak with to get better at Squash?
Initially, when I was young with the sport, I used to look up to my squash coach, Mr. Vijay Jangra, and my seniors in Mayo (Ramit Bhargava, Kunal Singh and many more) for guidance. As I gradually moved up in the level of play, Mr. Vijay Jangra and Mr. Vikas Jangra used to motivate me to train hard and helped me focus. I’ve also trained under different coaches - Mr. Puneet Singh, Mr. Deepak Moolani and Mr. Chetan Singh Rathore and this has benefitted me a lot.
Do you have any particular rivals in your sport? How much does having a rival motivate you?
Yes, I have had many “rivals” in my sport but I would prefer calling them friends to rivals as throughout my journey, the players I’ve faced the most in the toughest battles are the ones that are closest to my heart. It does not take a rival to motivate me as motivation and the “drive” comes from within.
What’s the toughest aspect of being a Squash player and what do you enjoy the most about it?
A squash player, or any sportsman for that matter, has to devote himself completely to the sport. It’s not just for the duration of training that you’re a squash player, it is 24/7! You have to eat like a squash player, wake up and go to bed like a squash player, exercise like a squash player, and feel the sweet pain rushing down your body the entire day like a squash player. And that is the toughest aspect of being a squash player or a sportsman. I enjoy following my daily routine (with squash being the primary focus) as it has taught me how to remain dedicated and be disciplined not only in my game, but in life itself!
I'm sure there are times during your training that you aren't achieving the results that you want. What do you do to lift your spirits during such times?
The key to success is to accept failure and never give up. An old friend (squash captain at Mayo) showed me, and taught me that no matter how hard or low things get, always have faith and never give up as better things lie ahead. Sometimes, when things feel lost, my coach and my younger brother, always have my back. They motivate me and lift my spirits through their positive attitude.
Are you good in your studies as well? If yes, how are you able to manage sports and studies? And how supportive is your school in helping your squash career?
Though it is very difficult to manage sports and studies together, along with taking part in numerous other activities being in a boarding school, I think I’ve done pretty well in all of the above. This is as a result of the support of the Director, Gen. Kulkarni, and the school. They have always promoted my training and participation throughout the year, while balancing my academics by providing remedial classes and re-tests for the classes and exams that I miss and it is indeed, very fortunate.
What goes through your mind during a long rally?
The fear of making an error with the tension building up in my muscles is what goes through my mind during a long rally.
What sacrifices did you find the hardest in order to pursue your Squash career, and would you say that Squash has changed you as a person?
A sportsman’s life is very different from a normal person’s life. The key element to this is discipline. I have missed out on fun times – late nights and junk food – in order to be healthy and fit for my game. Squash has made me multi-talented and a multi-tasker, along with becoming outgoing since I meet so many new people all the time at tournaments – opponents, parents, coaches, etc.
How does participation in Squash or sports generally benefit other areas of life?
When you’ve dedicated yourself completely to something, you are serious about it and work towards it. And when you’re serious towards one thing in life, it helps shape your character and attitude, not only for the sport, but in life. The seriousness is reflected everywhere, be it academics, sports, co-curriculars, or in general, a disciplined lifestyle.
What junk food do you like the most but have to force yourself not to eat?
I love all kinds of junk food, especially desserts but in order to maintain a high level of fitness, all these must be avoided.
To this point, what's been your best moment or favourite moment in Squash? What’s the one thing that you are most proud of?
The most nail biting, yet favourite moment in squash for me was the quarter finals of the 6th Bengal Open Squash Championship. I was 10-5 match ball down in the 5th set against Armaan Darukhanawala (2nd seed) in an hour long match and I fought hard to win the title itself!
Throughout my journey, there have been a lot of proud moments such as winning the SGFI Championship (National Games) Bengal Junior Open, Silver Spring Open, Uttrakhand Squash Championship and IPSC but the one that always stands above the rest is the pride of playing for the country! With “INDIA” written on the back of my t-shirt, the feel of playing is just exuberant and I wish to strive harder in doing my country proud!
Where would you want yourself to be in the next 5 years?
Though being in love with the sport, my primary focus is my education. I wish to complete my further education in one of the best universities in the world, along with pursuing my passion. I am working towards it and I’m sure my passion will pay dividends in the time to come.
What would be your celebratory meal after winning a match?
Tons of desserts, especially cheesecakes.
With adequate practice and hard work, everything becomes easy.
Most ignored, yet important practice drill in Squash?
Solo drills and ghosting are very under-rated but I have felt the difference in performance with a single session of solo practice.
What is your go-to shot?
Even on bad days, nicks are what I rely on.
Favorite sports movie?
The Game Changers