Roshan Khan - Champion long ago
Written by Pakistanica/Pakistani Books   

Most people know Roshan Khan as the father of Jahangir Khan, the record-breaking squash maestro with enchanting strokes who carried away the laurels both of the World Open and the British Open, the premier squash events. They admired and cheered him on the courts of all the continents.

But Roshan, belonging to pure Pathan stock, too had been a champion. This was in the fifties when his deft volleying and sound drops from the forecourt wore down another artful craftsman, Hashim Khan, who was doing wondrous things and bringing down the ace racket-wielders of Europe and Egypt. It was difficult to imagine that a raw youth about 13 years younger than Hashim and having no international exposure would absorb the calculated violence of the latter and engage him in tidy shots to topple him. This was in 1954 in the Dunlop Open, the earlier edition of what is now the most sought after World Open. His willingness to vary the game tactically, to send the drop-shot with a delectable touch and to go for a firm volley from the tee completely baffled the hitherto unbeatable Hashim.

 

 
Roshan learnt the rudiments of squash from his father, Faizullah Khan of the Khalil tribe of the Frontier. He had been a coach, a hard-working one, at Jullundur, Lucknow, Bangalore and Delhi before partition. A few years before independence Faizullah had shifted to the Rawalpindi Club as a trainer. The boy Roshan moved well on the court and the tutorials of his father helped him a lot. Later brother Nasrullah, a stylist to the core and tennis coach at Aligarh Muslim University and maternal uncle, Samiullah, took over and gave him further lessons. It was a proud moment for his elders to sit outside the court to see the blossoming of a squash talent.

In his maiden effort Hashim was dethroned at the Dunlop Open. While Roshan lost to the defending champion who was none other than the highly-rated and assured Hashim in his first attempt at the British Open, the most prestigious squash contest, in 1955, Roshan made a return journey to London next year. The galleries at the Landsdowne Club for the repeat final between Hashim and Roshan were full. The match was as much a contrast of technique as of tactics. While Hashim slammed his shots boldly and ran with grace, Roshan showed the composure needed in a difficult contest and varied his strokes with controlled volleys and delicate drops. Hashim could take only one game but then Roshan was the frontrunner. He leapt about the court with boundless zeal and unleashed a range of strokes that delighted the connoisseurs. The match became an anti-climax and Roshan etched his name on the roll of champions.

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Roshan won honours in Europe, America- and Canada, but as reports were reaching in the late fifties, brothers Hashim and Azam were hitting him on the knee and he could not continue his competitive game for long. In a later Dunlop tournament he lost seven teeth in a match against Azam, Hashim's younger brother. It was sad that he had to give up participation in foreign competitions after carrying away the US Open in 1958.


Foreign experts lauded Roshan's - cool temperament, his mobility on the court and his disciplined armoury, especially the backhand volley-drop with subtle touch. He was reckoned as a complete player till he was a competitive star. Even after retirement squash remained Roshan's first interest. He was made the coach of Navy after winning major squash titles and was promoted as Sports Officer. Every evening the rugged-looking Roshan, even above 70, was busy at the Naval Complex, duly named after him and son Jahangir, giving tips to youngsters and other aspirants to squash stardom and honing their shots. It is a laudable service to the game.


Though himself a former champion and father of the famed Jahangir, Roshan is modest and speaks about himself only in short, plain and unaffectedly sincere language. He has high regard for Hashim and thinks that he had the most powerful strokes and was a formidably accomplished player.


Roshan puts great stress on discipline, which he regrets some Of the national players lack. "The game is - dismantled and the match temperament evaporates if the player hasn't discipline on and off the court," opined. Roshan.
 

 

Wins (1)
Year     Opponent in final     Score in final
1957     Hashim Khan     6-9, 9-5, 9-2, 9-1
Runner-ups (2)
Year     Opponent in final     Score in final
1956     Hashim Khan     9-4, 9-2, 5-9, 9-5
1960     Azam Khan     9-1, 9-0, 9-0



By Lateef Jafri