Nawakille: A Squash Town

This is a truly amazing story in the world of sport. As I’ve written here before, I once had the chance to play one game of squash with Gogi Alauddin in Lahore, who was rated #2 in the world at the time. He told me we would play a long game to 21 points. If I scored a single point, he would buy me dinner. Predictably (in retrospect), I lost 21-0 in the worst drubbing of my life. He barely had to move to completely crush me in every point. And yes, I had to buy dinner as well.

Faisal Irfan Mian at All Things Pakistan:

The small village of Nawakille (pop. few thousand) outside the frontier city of Peshawar in Pakistan boasts something that no other in the world can. Over the last half century, the village that does not have a single squash court, has produced six world number ones in the sport. In fact, since 1950 the six between them have won 29 British Opens (the Wimbledon of squash) and 14 World Opens (which started only in 1975).


This is an incredible story that just happens to be a sport story. If the sport of squash had a bigger profile in world sport, there would have been movies made on this subject. For now, a writeup in this blog will have to suffice. While the British whiled away their time guarding the Khyber pass, they decided to relieve their boredom by building a few outdoors roofless squash courts. In the heat and direct sunlight, it was difficult to play a game with one of the highest cardiovascular work rates. But try telling that to the Pathan warriors.

Hashim Khan, the first of the lot, become a ball-boy at the Peshawar British Army Officers club and practiced with the broken balls tossed out by the officers. When the officers would retreat indoors in the 100 degrees heat and the squash court was empty, it would be “Hashim vs Hashim” in the court according to his biography. He got good enough to be the Pakistan champion by 1949 and somehow got enough sponsorship to get to the British Open in 1951. He was 34 years old at the time (Borg retired from Tennis at 26). In the warm up tournament he beat the four time British Open champion Mahmoud El Karim conceding just six points. The British press called it a “flash in the pan”, expecting for order to be restored, but Hashim went on to beat Mahmoud in the Open final 9-5, 9-0, 9-0, and then continued to win the tournament six out of the next seven years.

More here.  [Photo shows Jansher Khan and Jahangir Khan.]

Bonus video: