Qamar Zaman - Striving to lose
Written by English NewsPaper/Dawn/Others   

To squash enthusiasts the moot point of the forthcommg First Asian Squash Championship is to determine whether star squash player Qamar Zaman, the world's first seed till just a few months ago still has the mettle of a champion.


Ever since young Jahangir Khan stormed into the lime light when he defeated reigning world champion Jeff Hunt in a pre-British Open tournament and contested him in the final of the British open, the casusal squash fan seems to have forgotten the existence of Qamar Zaman. At times one feels that even the Pakistan Squash Rackets Federation and Qamar  Zaman's employers, the Pakistan International Airlines have him written off.

This is the tragedy of our squash world that one player is forgotten as soon as the new star shines on the horizoin. Sentiments aside, the fact remains that win or lose, whether he is top seed or third seed in the world (his present seeding) Qamar Zaman remains one of the most stylish players and also one of the most intelligent squash masters.

If Qamar had not used his brain, he would not have reached the heights of International fame and prestige he enjoys today. In Pakistan squash was the domain of the legendary Khan's whose most famous scion was Hashim Khan.

Squash was introduced into the sub-continent during the British Raj and it became exceptionally popular with the
Frontier Forces and consequently with the Pathans who soon adopted the game. But Hashim Khan's family continued to reign supreme as the only source of champions of the sub-continent.

Qamar Zaman, son of a Pathan marker does not belong to Hashim Khan's family.He had to work doubly hard for recognition. Even a distant member of the Khan family enjoyed early patronage and  even if he could not afford to play the game financially there was no dearth of clubs and institutions who would help him polish his game by providing all playing facilities free of cost and even giving him a stipend to maintain himself.


Qamar Zaman on the other hand had to make do with the game with only his passion for squash to finance Mill and to promote and sustain his inter-est through the lone training period in his youth. Qamar recalls how he would bring home the smashed squash balls from the courts of the clubs in Quetta where he spent his early childhood. His mother would sew the ball and little Qamar would take it to practice- all by himself. He says he was careful how he played with this reconditioned ball stroking it gently so as not to burst open the stitching on it.

This is how Qamar his light, lightning fast and accurate drop shots -which is his best weapon today. Qamar trained hard on his own seeing himself a tough, time tale. He would get up early in the morning and jog through the arid fields near his house in Quetta. Then he would spend some time exer-cising, return home for break-fast and then  spend hours practicing by himself. In the evening he would play squash with whoever was willing to take him on..

It is not surprising then that this self rnade player should have been a late developer in the game. At an age when  teenagers of the famed Khan family, even a distant relative like Mohibullah Khan were winning National fame and  heading towards international fame, Qamar Zaman was still nowhere in the limelight. He was 17 when he won the Pakistan Juniors in 1968. Then followed five years of oblivion in which Qamar did his best to compete but could not succeed in beating the then champions. At last in 1973 at the age Of 22 Qamar Zaman suddenly shot into fame when he won the Pakistan Amateur title and after that many many tournaments. Till 1978 Qamar was either champion, finalist or the semi-finalist in almost all the squash tournaments of Pakistan and the world. In 1973-74 he won the Singapore Open, was finalist in British Open. In 1974 he won the Egypt Open, was runners up in British Amateurs and won the most coveted British Open, Rolez New Zealand. Open and Durham Open.

In 1975 he was semi-finalist in the British Open. He won the Pakistan International World series in 1977, Pakistan Masters- runners up in World Open and British Open. The same year he won the President's Pride of Performance award. In 1978 he won the FSPA Championship and Irish Open. Qamar rose like a meteor and soon there was no other name which people quoted with as much pride and glorification. It was Qamar, Qamar and Qamar at home and abroad. Now the self made player lacked no supporters. The leading patrons of squash PIA wooed him into its fold. The Pakistan Squash Federation banked all its hopes of maintaining supre¬macy in world squash on Qamar Zaman. The result of it all was endless competition, indiscriminate participation in every single major or minor, important, unimportant tourna¬ment the squash world had had to offer. This led to cress exploitation of his talent for the sake of publicity, promotion of institutions, sports goods and finally it resulted in his sudden downfall in the past few months.

Qamar Zaman has lost none of his old skills and none of his intelligence for strategic play but it does not sewn to be helping him any more. By the end of last year he was beginning to lose tournaments too easily. The critics said he was gifting away titles as he hardly fought in a competition.

How has Qamar Zaman rea¬ched this stage? Part of the fault lies with institutions such as Pakistan Squash Rackets  Federation and Pakistan International Airlines(PIA) the part of the fault is in Qamar himself.

By Ali Kabir

Published in The Star on Aug 10, 1981