Willstrop: Our game remembers a world great

James Willstrop.
James Willstrop.
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The world of squash is remembering Hashim Khan, the first great in the world game, who died last week aged 100.

In the 1950s he won seven British Open titles, his first at around 37 years of age, (Hashim doesn’t have a birth certificate), and his last at 44.

Despite his achievements at the British Open, his most endearing legacy to many will be the endless stream of witty dictums from his part teaching guide, part autobiography, ‘Squash Rackets, the Khan Game’. His ghostwriter decided to record the words exactly, in Pakistani dialect. There were hilarious sub-headings within chapters such as, ‘Keep eye on ball’, ‘Keep safe’, and ‘Get in shape’. The book, highly recommended for comedy value as much as squash expertise, is full of classic lines, including this one about the failure of a club player to warm up: ‘Sometime I see player coming out of court too early. He is leaning on opponent to walk. Muscle in leg pulled! Now he is out of game 3-4 weeks. I say: “Too bad, you warm up little?” He says: “Warm up? That a good idea?” Yes! Good idea!’

Later when talking about fitness, he quips: ‘If you are a fat man, big tummy ... Eat not so much, only way.’

And despite his age, he carried on playing for much of the rest of his life, in Masters events at the British Open. It was only about seven or eight years ago that, aged 93, he admitted that he still played: ‘I just fool around in doubles court. Not run. I choose partner – he run for me.’ We’ll drink to that. Rest well Hashim.

Elland Road.

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