Shot And A Ghost, by James Willstrop

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The Independent Culture

Something funny has happened on the way to the squash court in the past couple of decades. For reasons difficult to divine, the game somehow slipped off the mainstream sporting radar.

It's a curiosity that in the Eighties and Nineties, when the game was dominated by two Pakistani players, the imperious Jansher and Jahangir Khan, it received far more coverage in the British media than it does now, when we can celebrate an English World No 1.

No one is more disappointed than the incumbent, James Willstrop; it is a theme the Yorkshireman constantly returns to in this diary of 12 months on the 'T'. It would be easy to dismiss him as a bit of a whinger – he is a big Morrissey fan, after all – except that he does have a point, as evidenced by squash's repeated rejection as an Olympic sport in favour of antics such as formation drowning, aka synchronised swimming.

Without the backup which more feted stars enjoy, life on the international squash circuit can be tough; one can't imagine any hospital in the world refusing to treat Rafael Nadal until he produced a credit card, as happened to Willstrop in Egypt when he was stricken with acute gastroenteritis.

His painfully honest journal reveals that he is also a worrier, an obsessive/compulsive, a vegetarian and a lover of poetry and musicals. Some readers might be tempted to skip some of the lengthy sections detailing his injuries and training routines, but although the narrative pace can be uneven, Willstrop's candour shines through and makes this book an engrossing read.

Let's hope it serves to raise his profile; he, and his sport, deserve that.

Available in paperback from, £9.99