HANGZHOU, China - India's squash team celebrated a gold medal gained in dramatic circumstances on Saturday when Abhay Singh came back from two match points down to win the deciding game and so beat rivals Pakistan in the Asian Games men's team final.
After a topsy-turvy final that both sets of players described as high pressure due to expectations back home, Singh fought back from 10-8 down in the decider against Pakistan's Noor Zaman to win 12-10 and clinch the gold medal, sending his team mates and the Indian fans in the crowd into raptures.
It was sweet revenge for Singh and India who were beaten by Pakistan on Wednesday in a pool-round match, which also included Singh losing to Zaman.
"When you lose on tour, you lose for yourself but when you lose here you lose for India and that does not feel good," said Singh, 25, who cried both when he won and when he heard his national anthem on the podium. "I think it takes a lot of character to push and come back from that.
"I think all the shouting, all India just pushed me to go. I just want to thank everyone really who shouted for me today."
It did not start so well for India.
Pakistan's Nasir Iqbal beat India's Mahesh Mangaonkar 3-0 in a feisty opening match in the best-of-three tie.
Watched by around 200 fans at the temporarily erected glass-walled court, sitting in the middle of a huge convention centre, Iqbal and Mangaonkar constantly got in each other’s way and complained to the match referees about calls.
After one clash Iqbal tumbled, prompting Mangaonkar to rush over and check his opponent was alright.
Iqbal went on to win 11-8 11-8 11-2 which went down well with some of the locals in the crowd who waved mini Pakistan flags given to them as they walked in. No India flags were given out.
Fans were given blankets to keep warm at the venue where the temperature was kept to around 18-20 degrees Celsius at the behest of players, venue staff said.
PLAY LIKE ROBOTS
After a comfortable 3-0 victory in the second match for India's top seed Saurav Ghosal over Pakistan's Muhammad Asim Khan, the tie reached the decider, prompting more fans to arrive and the volume to increase.
Tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours, which stretch back decades, have meant fierce battles on the sporting field.
"Obviously there comes a little bit of an added edge with Pakistan," said the 37-year-old Ghosal, who also won team gold in Incheon in 2014. "So I think the focus for us as a team was to try and rectify some of the mistakes we made three days back."
"I think one of the things in the Pakistan match last time was that both Abhay and Mahesh got very, very emotionally charged. That's not the way to play them. The way to play them is to stay calm and... almost have to be robots, like literally like no emotion, and it's almost like that.
"No emotion is almost more powerful than any other outward thing that you can show... because then it doesn't, can't, give them anything to feed off. And I think for the most part today, they kept that." REUTERS