If only the filmmakers had approached her a few years later, Dipika Pallikal would have been under the arc lights and not toiling on the squash courts.
And now, even though she just lost at the semi finals of the World Squash Championship that began in Chennai on Wednesday, it appears that her decision to refuse a movie alongside Mohan Lal might just have been right.
“I am too young for it,” Pallikal had told HT three years ago. “And right now, squash is my priority and I don’t want anything to distract me. I am at an age when I can set a future for myself in squash,” she had added.
Pallikal may as well end up doing to squash in India what Sania Mirza did to women’s tennis.
And the glamour quotient is not the only reason — it’s the Chennai girl’s game, much like Mirza’s, that has ensured that it is not all about her looks. Ironically then, almost every single profile of the star mentions her ‘looks’.
Not bothered by that, however, this sportstar is just another girl next door, who loves her ‘pink’. Once driven by her love for the colour, she painted her room pink, got loads of pink outfits and bought a really expensive camera because it was, well, pink.
She is a self-confessed fan of tennis stars Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic and likes to dress up like them on court.
And it comes as no wonder that the 17-year-old has won the German Open, Dutch Open, French Open, Australian Open, Scottish Open on the European Junior Squash Circuit.
The girl, whose favourite movies include Grey’s Anatomy, One Tree Hill, Heroes and is into rock music, has participated in three major tournaments this year and reached the finals at the British and Asian Junior championships. Currently ranked at her career best — 48 — she entered the semifinals of the World Squash Championship that began in Chennai on Wednesday, but lost out on Saturday.
Pallikal is being coached by Egypt’s Amir Wagih at the Gezira Sports Club in Cairo. Her interest in sport is hardly surprising because her mother Susan was the Indian women’s cricket captain. Cyrus Poncha, who coached her initially, says about the rising star, “She is in peak form right now. ”
Poncha lists her fighting spirit and the ability to finish the ball as Pallikal’s strengths.
Pallikal also has a deep connect with god — beyond just the churches. She was recently quoted as saying that she prayed at churches, temples and mosques and wore a cross round her neck, a thread on her wrist and kept a packet of vibhuti.
Vaman Apte, one of the squash coaches who has seen Pallikal improve as a player, says, “She is blessed with good speed. And Dipika, as far as I know, is also quite a tough cookie.”
And that was quite evident three years ago when she turned down the lure of stardom.