Harinder Pal Sandhu. (Express photo)
Last year after competing in the CCI International in Mumbai in January, 30-year-old Mohali squash player Harinder Pal Sandhu suffered from bulging disc and scoliosis in the back causing severe nerve infringements in his body. It meant that Sandhu spent three months at his home at Mohali and underwent therapy sessions at the Abhinav Bindra Performance Centre at Mohali.
It was not till August last year that Sandhu picked up a squash racquet to train and last month, Sandhu won the 11th PSA title of his career with a title win in the HCL SRFI Indian Tour Mumbai leg. With his biggest PSA title so far in a $20,000 event, Sandhu sounded confident of regaining his form.
"The disc injury in my back resulted in severe nerve infringements and it meant that I could not even stand without support for more than three months. With the rehabilitation going at Abhinav Bindra Performance Centre at Mohali, the pain subsided and I shifted my base to the Indian Squash Academy in Chennai. While I did not start training, I spent time doing fitness at Primal Patterns, a fitness centre run by former Indian cricket fitness coach Shankar Basu in Chennai," shared Sandhu.
"It was in August that I started training and sometimes, I would feel scared about getting injured again. It was like I was starting from scratch as my body had to adjust to the racquet swing and footwork. To win my biggest PSA Tour title in Mumbai means a lot after this career threatening injury and I hope to carry this form ahead."
Sandhu, whose father Harpal Singh Sandhu is an SP with Punjab Police, had won a total of five titles on the PSA tour in 2017 and last month's title win in Mumbai was Sandhu's 11th title win on the PSA Tour circuit.
The five wins in 2017 meant that Sandhu climbed to 47th spot in world rankings before a slump in form saw him dropping to 74 and later to the 177th spot post the injury. The Mumbai win meant that Sandhu has now climbed to the 107th spot in the world rankings and the Punjab player is now ready for the PSA Tour events apart from other international events this year.
At the HCL SRFI Indian Tour Mumbai leg last month, Sandhu scored a win over world number 120 Tomataka Endo of Japan to claim the title and it brought back the memories of 2017, when he won five PSA titles.
"Winning five titles in 2017 was the high point in my career so far and the fact that I won the titles in different countries boosted my confidence a lot. It also meant that I broke in the top-50 in the world and I was eager to break into the top 30 in the world. The injury happened at a crucial time in my career. I would often talk with fellow players Saurav Ghosal and Ramit Tandon and they always supported me to make a comeback. We would talk every day and when I won the title in Mumbai last month, they congratulated me and also told me to get ready for competition from them (laughs). I won against Czech Republic's Ondrej Ohreka in the quarter-final in a match lasting five sets and it means my body is now fully ready to take the load," shared Sandhu, who has been training at the Indian Squash Academy, Chennai since the last one decade.
Sandhu, who has so far won three medals in Asian Games, had also competed in the South Asian Games in Nepal last month and claimed the silver medal in the men's singles category. The Punjab player lost 1-3 to Tayyab Aslam of Pakistan in the final.
Sandhu was also part of silver medal-winning Indian team in Nepal. Earlier in 2019, Sandhu also played the role of coach for the Indian team in the Asian Individual Squash Championships in Malaysia in May. Sandhu is now eyeing the Jaipur leg of the HCL SRFI Indian Tour later this month before the senior nationals in February.
"While I was still undergoing rehabilitation, the opportunity to act as coach with the Indian team in Malaysia also helped me to spend time with the team members and working on their basics. It also helped me to put my mind back in the sport. Winning the silver medal apart from team silver medal in South Asian Games in Nepal last month was also a special moment for me. My first target this year is the Jaipur leg of the HCl SRFI Tour followed by the nationals in February. Post that, I will compete in the SRFI Tour and I can also compete in PSA World Tour events depending on my rankings," concluded Sandhu.