Exclusive Rahmat Khan Interview: Why Jahangir Khan is the squash G.O.A.T.

January 23 2024

The 10 British Opens and six World Championships Jahangir Khan won in an illustrious career statistically make him the greatest player to have ever lifted a squash racket.

Yet despite that incredible haul, the argument still rages over who is the squash GOAT (Greatest Of All Time), with each decade having its outstanding candidate.

Geoff Hunt, the man who preceded Jahangir as the game’s first World Champion was the outstanding 70s candidate, while Jansher Khan smashed records from the late 80s to the turn of the century.

More recently Egyptian racket magicians Amr Shabana and Ramy Ashour have their supporters while Ali Farag, the current world champion is – along with Geoff, Jahangir and Jansher – the only other man to hold British and World Championships in the same season.

Rahmat Khan, the man who shaped Jahangir into the game’s ultimate icon, reveals why he thinks he would have beaten all comers from all ages.

The legend’s Pakistani mentor and coach makes a passionate case for Jahangir’s dominance over any rival, not just from then but also the modern game.

Towards the end of his career, Jahangir lost nine times to Jansher when Rahmat was not with him for a six-month spell. But that sequence would change with a phone call.

“I had a call from Jahangir’s father Uncle Roshan who asked me ‘what is this? Jahangir is going to lose the British Open!’ So I agreed to train him, but I knew he lacked discipline,” recalls Rahmat.

“I called Jahangir and asked him if he wanted to beat Jansher and the answer was an emphatic yes.”

The pair returned to their homeland for six weeks of gruelling training which saw Jahangir regain his fitness to thrash Jansher in three straight (1987, British Open final 9-6, 9-0, 9-5).

“During that match, there was a famous rally that lasted just under seven minutes and it broke Jansher. That answers the question over lasting greatness.”

So just how would he have performed against Farag and Co should the great Pathan be treading the boards right now in peak condition?

The advent of the modern PAR (point-a-rally scoring system) as opposed to the old hand out hand in metric and the advent of the lower 17-inch tin would have had an impact.

But Rahmat insists: “If I trained Jahangir now, I believe he could still go unbeaten for five years and beat the hell out of everyone in 2024.”

Jahangir’s opponents in his prime were Chris Dittmar, Gamal Awad, Rodney Martin, Ross Norman and of course, Jansher. All were supremely talented but, according to Rahmat, lacking a vital ingredient.

“Jahangir had something they didn’t… the will, the single-mindedness no one else has had then or now. So if he could beat those guys I see no reason he couldn’t beat today’s players,” he says.

“Today’s squash has lots of very talented and wonderful players, and of course with the low tin the game has changed and everyone goes for their shots. But everyone going for shots is one thing, everyone picking up the shots is another!”

So just how would Jahangir dispatch his modern millennial rivals?

Rahmat is clear on this: “Firstly he’d destroy them in the back two corners, giving them no chance to take advantage of the lower tin with their winners,” replied Rahmat.

“If they did manage to attack, he’d pick their best shots up. When that happens repeatedly, they would go closer and closer to the tin and would start to hit it because there would be no way out of the rally.”

Jonah Barrington once said ‘make the back two corners a graveyard’ – an approach Rahmat has no doubt would have seen Jahangir thrashing the modern players.”

Despite his insistence that his former charge would still reign supreme, Rahmat has glowing words of praise for several of the current generation of stars.

“There are some great players playing squash right now and of course Ali Farag is now a four-time World Champion and the first man since Jahangir’s time to hold both the British and World Championships at the same time, he says.

“Mohamed El Shorbagy has done very well and has been so consistent over a long time and I really like Amr Shabana and Ramy Ashour who were outstanding talents.”

He’s also a big fan of young Mostafa Asal coming through the ranks – but he simply doesn’t see the quality that Geoff, Jahangir and Jansher all shared.

He adds: “Today they play more strokes than we used to, but remember this – if you’re playing chess then your tactics are different than if you play backgammon.

“Backgammon you go for it and that is what they do now, they go for the shots, but in Jahangir’s time it was chess.”

Squash will make its debut in the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. It’s a golden opportunity Rahmat believes must be seized if the sport is to remain a permanent part of the Olympic schedule.

“Now we are in the Olympics we have to promote squash in a way that will bring more people to the game,” he says. “Promotion is our duty. Jonah Barrington did a good job of promoting squash in his time and I used pop singer Eddy Grant to help generate interest with Jahangir.”

Rahmat was no stranger to publicity ruses, attending the reggae star’s concerts and once even hosting a half time raffle on the pitch at Watford Football Club, where they met superstar Elton John.

“The aim has to be to involve these other sports so their fans learn more about squash so our profile will grow, which is important ahead of LA,” he adds.

Rahmat was an innovative pioneer and thought outside the box, even giving squash some of the boxing ring’s razzamatazz by bringing Jahangir together with Del Harris, then British No 1. He also landed a backer who also happened to be former World Heavyweight Champion Lennox Lewis’ sponsor.

“We had the press conference and a head-to-head with TV cameras doing interviews in the changing room. One BBC reporter asked me if I was Don King the boxing promoter,” he recalls. “It worked, generated interest and we made one million.”

There was, though, one promotional ‘escapade’ which has always frustrated the entrepreneur coach – a cross racket challenge between Jahangir and tennis legend Martina Navratilova.

His bid to stage a tennis v squash ‘Battle of the Sexes’ was eventually thwarted by the lack of a sponsor for the challenge.

“I wanted Jahangir to challenge someone in tennis because he had all the skills he needed and he knew how the ball behaved,” says the former national junior tennis champion for Pakistan.

“If Jahangir practised, I knew he could really do something in tennis, and the main purpose for that was to promote the game of squash.”

Rahmat’s plan was to challenge women’s tennis icon Navratilova at her own game for the publicity it would have brought squash, regardless of the outcome.

“Practically when I put the figures together, it meant Jahangir could not play squash if he were to practice full-time on tennis, so my idea was he played the British and World Championships in squash but the rest of the time I would have got a coach to work with him on his tennis,” he says.

“But Jahangir’s income would have been hit so we also needed a sponsor to pay him for the year, but couldn’t find one. That was one unfulfilled dream which would have been very interesting.”

He laughs: “I still find myself wondering how it would have gone. But I know who my money would have been on!”