Jansher out to appeal on court appeal

Richard Eaton hopes for an end to the lengthy troubles dogging Jansher Khan
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The Independent Online
Jansher Khan is arguably the most successful sportsman in the world. He is certainly one of the most controversial.

He has a record eight world Open squash titles and five British Opens - which he has been saying all week he has no doubt he will convert into six in Cardiff today. He has also been saying it is time he was given the credit he deserves. But given a record which has been tarnished by a season-long ban from the British league for allegedly not trying, by a one-month ban from the world circuit for failing to show for a major tournament, and by an incident-full private life, this is not as easy as Jansher would like.

Although his progress towards his aim of being considered the greatest squash player ever has recently been helped by a settled marriage and children, it was not always so. In the turbulent days his former wife slapped a divorce writ on him as he left the squash court in Kuala Lumpur and at Wembley a father and three children held up a banner to the crowds at the British Open saying: "We want our mum back."

Then there was the occasion when an ex-manager in the middle of a bitter feud over compensation, stood glaring at Jansher with simmering hostility through the the transparent court walls during a World Open encounter - which he subsequently lost.. Under the auspices of Satinder Bajwa, a London based Indian, the Pakistani phenomenon has become more stable and prosperous.

This has brought about the emergence of a tactical and technical genius. When he started out, Jansher was Mr Heartbreak, the ultimate containing player. Then he learned smothering volleys and rapier kills in attack; developed the flexibility to do either; then both; then both within a match and now both within a rally. It is a heady concoction, which leaves beaten opponents with the illusion they have been in a patternless match. But Jansher's consistency is unruffled by his ability to switch styles.

The off-court insecurities remain, however. His brother Mohibullah Khan, the former world No2 who coaches him, served a prison term in England for drug-smuggling and is not here for the British Open. Homesickness has become a problem since he became a family man and his withdrawals from tournaments have come close to driving the Professional Squash Association mad with frustration.

And he has been caught up in wider controversy. A fax was recently sent in his name, making racist allegations about the PSA and suggesting there is a white conspiracy to prevent squash becoming an Olympic sport. Jansher subsequently denied any involvement in the fax, but the real perpetrators are still not known. The episode added to the notion that his life is rarely incident-free.

A significant truth, however, is that Jansher does not apparently cheat, rarely argues with referees, and is mostly courteous. He has remained dominant for a decade in a sport so physically tough it has reduced two former legends, Geoff Hunt and Jonah Barrington, to a hobbling middle age. Before the millennium, Jansher will probably have surpassed the overall record of 16 World or British Opens held by his compatriot Jahangir Khan.

Jansher's main aims now are to protect his body by finding newer and more efficient ways of winning his matches quickly; to keep at bay young pretenders like Scotland's Peter Nicol, Jonathan Power and Ahmed Barada; to understand better what he has to do to realise his obligations to the game, and to keep trouble at arm's length. But whether trouble will keep away from him is another matter.