Squash sensation Dipika Pallikal hopes her and Joshana Chinappa’s path-breaking doubles gold at the Commonwealth Games raises the profile of the racket sport in India and all stakeholders make a “much needed” effort to meet the dearth of world-class tournaments in the country…
Dipika Pallikal strongly feels that the biggest win of her career in Glasgow recently should be used to change the face of Indian squash. “I really hope our win inspires kids to take up the game. It would also be fitting if the sponsors wake up to the sport and start investing in Indian squash. If we are not able to make things better now, then I don’t see it ever happening in the future,” Pallikal told PTI. “Ever since I have returned from Glasgow, I have had so many people calling me and wanting to know more about the game. They said they were all so excited to watch squash on television. Now they all want to see some top quality action in India.
“It is disheartening that no big tournaments are being organised in India. I take great pride in playing for India and it is such a shame that I am not able to compete in front of the home crowd,” said the 22-year-old, who arrived in Chennai to a lukewarm reception. Other Indian players, including Chinappa and Saurav Ghosal, have also voiced their concerns over the lack of tournaments in the country.
India has not hosted a major pro tour event since 2011 despite the fact that the sport’s world body is headed by an Indian, N Ramachandran, who is also the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President. Talking about the road ahead, World No.10 Pallikal says her dream run in Glasgow has given her confidence to do better on the singles professional tour.
She starts training with five-time world champion Sarah Fitz-Gerald in Chennai from Monday ahead of the Hong Kong Open (Aug 24-31) and China Open (Sep 2-7), and has also set sights on the Asian Games, commencing from September 19 at Incheon. “It is great that Sarah will be here for more than two weeks. It is because of her and other members of my team I was able to do what I did in Glasgow. The next big event is the Asian Games, where the competition would be tough but no way near the Commonwealth Games level. I will be going for medals in both team and singles event.
“Sadly there will be no doubles there,” said Pallikal. She and her more experienced partner Chinappa were on a giant-killing spree in Glasgow, defeating World No.1 Nicol David and her Malaysian teammate Low Wee Wern in the group stage before stunning England’s top seeds Jenny Duncalf and Laura Massaro in the gold-medal match.
Asked what worked for them at the Commonwealth Games, Pallikal said, “Joshana and I have known each other for a very long time. We are rivals on the singles court but when we are playing doubles all of that rivalry takes a backseat. We play as a team and our understanding shows on the court. As doubles is normally played once in four years (during CWG), players don’t get enough time to gel well. What worked for us in the whole tournament was that we went for our strokes irrespective of the match situation and it paid off,” said the Indian, adding that the reduced tin height of 13 inches also helped their aggressive game.
Pallikal said having the whole team and family supporting her by the courtside also helped her achieve the goal. “Travelling around the world on the pro tour can be lonely. You are doing everything on your own. On the contrary, being with the Indian team gives you a family feeling. Joshana and I were together on and off the court for more than two weeks and had the men’s team supporting us too. All of that helped immensely and so was the presence of Dinesh,” added Pallikal, referring to her fiance and cricketer Dinesh Karthik, who flew to Glasgow for the doubles event.