Ken and the Refs
BY ALAN THATCHER
Down the years we have been blessed with a loyal team of volunteers doing so many important tasks behind the scenes.
Some are more visible than others, although tournament referee Linda Davie prefers to shun the limelight as she efficiently manages the schedule for the officials.
Linda is proud to have been an integral part of every tournament during our history and she said:
“I was honoured to be asked from the beginning to be Tournament Referee. I accepted this post but never imagined I would be here 20 years later.
“We have always tested new ideas, such as to the best of seven final in the very first year.
“We then tested the three-referee system with the use of cards. That was followed by the hand-held machines, which was wonderful until one of the wires came loose.
“As the central official asked for the side refs’ decisions, this started off with a quiet, polite voice but ended with all kinds of shouting and gesticulating. I quickly handed out the cardboard crosses with the decisions on one side, and had to explain to the audience that we had a ‘technical hitch’.
“We were always happy to try and test anything that would help the game and had a few laughs in the process.
“We have daily meetings to go over the previous matches and we look for ways to improve and manage the matches. We have even invited the commentators to our meetings. That’s true!
“I think there should be a Tournament Referee at all major events. The work I do with the players is something my referees can’t do.
“When I chat to the players I can discuss if they’ve been naughty and tell them what we won’t accept. I can offer them advice.
“I don’t think anyone knows this, but I go out of my way to shake hands with a player if he has had (in my opinion) an honest game.
“Canary Wharf has always been a hotbed of innovation and the jumbo screen above the front wall of the court made it the perfect venue to trial and refine the video review system.
“I have enjoyed every tournament at Canary Wharf and I do feel honoured to have been involved every year.”
One volunteer who has enjoyed almost as much time on the glass court as the star players is our court cleaner Ken Narain!
Ken is a sprightly 81-year-old who was born in Karachi and enjoyed his first experience of squash with lessons from Roshan Khan, British Open champion in 1957 and father of the legendary Jahangir, who won the British Open 10 years in succession.
“It was very hot on those courts and I worked there as the water boy when I was seven or eight years old.
“I moved to London in 1969 and learned how to give sports massages. I have treated a large number of famous players down the years, including Jahangir and then Jansher Khan.
“I enjoyed working as a court cleaner at the Super Series Finals at Broadgate Arena in the city of London and I remember Jonathon asking me to massage his legs the day he beat Peter Nicol 15-14 in the fifth game of the final. Jonathon gave me a brand-new Dunlop racket as a reward!
“Despite that, Peter’s friend Tim Garner asked me to help out when this wonderful tournament was created at Canary Wharf and I have so many lovely memories from working with such special people and seeing the world’s greatest players.”
Ken and his wife Vimla have been married for 52 years and have three daughters. Both are still working in the retail sector in Essex, and Ken still plays squash now and again. A few years ago he won the over-70 age group final for the Barking and Dagenham district.
As well as loyal volunteers, Canary Wharf has also attracted an army of loyal spectators. Every year, when tickets are put on sale, they are snapped up within weeks, providing full-house crowds from day one.
It is fitting to finish this piece by thanking all of our loyal friends, volunteers, fans, players and sponsors for helping us to create 20 years of squash magic.
More than 60,000 spectators have enjoyed two decades of watching top-class squash at the East Wintergarden. We salute every one of you.