The 'manipulated' Incheon Asian Games singles draw in squash to ensure India a medal continues to haunt India's top woman player, Dipika Pallikal, who has once again brought the issue to the fore by asking the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to ensure such a thing doesn't happen again.
In a letter addressed to IOA secretary-general Rajeev Mehta on her return from Incheon with a bronze, Pallikal said she "wants to pursue the issue of not placing two fellow country players in the same half of the draw. All other sport at the Asian Games in 2006 (Doha), 2010 (Guangzhou) and 2014 (Incheon) had by rule not pitted the same country players in the same half, but squash, if you remember Sir (Mehta), had done this in 2006, 2010 and 2014."
Pallikal was so demoralised after seeing the Incheon draw, which pitted her against compatriot Joshna Chinappa in the quarter-final, that she seriously considered pulling out, but finally decided to 'play under protest'.
Pursuing the case
But on her return, she wants to pursue the issue 'to its logical end'. Pallikal's letter on October 17, 2014, further states: "I have been advised by Mr Wei Jizhong, the honorary life vice-president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) that I can pursue this issue with the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of India, so that at the next Asian Games, squash too follows the same rule as all other racquet sport."
Jizhong lived up to his promise and ensured the squash draw for the Asian Beach Games, starting on Wednesday, was in consonance with the Olympic Charter and latest 2014 WSF rule of 'Optimal Separation'.
In racquet sport, two things need to be kept in mind. First, only two players per country are allowed at the Games and second, to comply with its Olympic bid, the World Squash Federation (WSF) rulebook was changed to 'Optimum separation of players of the same nationality to be used i.e. drawn in different halves and, if there are more than two competitors from the same nation, in different quarters.'
With just two players per country participating in the Games, it's strange how two seeded Indian players have been finding themselves in the same half of the draw every time since the 2006 Doha Asiad.
It ensured Saurav Ghosal bronze medals in both 2006 and 2010 Asian Games.
In 2010, Ghosal was placed in the same half with Siddharth Suchde ensuring they would meet in the quarter-finals and one of them would move into the semi-finals, thus securing India at least a bronze.
So, when Pallikal defeated Chinappa in the quarter-finals at Incheon, history was repeated, in the sense that the draw was made in such a manner that India's top women squash exponents were destined to meet in the last-eight stage, being in the same half of the draw. Pallikal moved into the semis and assured a bronze.
IOA secretary-general, Rajeev Mehta, told HT that Pallikal's letter will be forwarded to the OCA which will in turn take up the issue with the Asian Squash Federation (ASF).
But the paradox is that how will N Ramachandran, the current IOA and WSF president, react to a complaint from his own office challenging his legacy on both fronts as he is still patron of the ASF and Squash Racquet Federation of India (SRFI).
It will be a piquant situation as he will be the petitioner, respondent, judge and jury to ratify or alter his own interpretations.