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Commonwealth Games 2018: Squash dreams rest on tested warhorses

With the new generation not showing potential, India will have to rely on stalwarts like Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa to bring home glory in the Commonwealth Games 2018.

other sports Updated: Apr 01, 2018 10:04 IST
Leslie Xavier
Leslie Xavier
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Commonwealth Games 2018,Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018,Gold Coast 2018
Joshna Chinappa, Dipika Pallikal and Saurav Ghosal have been Indian squash’s ambassadors-cum-champions for more than a decade. (PTI)

It’s heartening, no doubt, to see the names of Joshna Chinappa, Dipika Pallikal and Saurav Ghosal doing the rounds again as another edition of the Commonwealth Games approaches.

However, the longevity of the champion trio brings to the fore a glaring question about the progress of the sport in India.

Joshna, Dipika and Ghosal, have been Indian squash’s ambassadors-cum-champions for more than a decade now. While the sport has found the next generation of world leaders, moving on from the likes of Ramy Ashour to the El Shorbagy brothers among men, and from Nicol David to Nour el Sherbini in the women’s segment, the reign of the Indian champions is yet to be challenged in the country.

This, even after Joshna, Dipika and Ghosal, whose game grew by leaps and bounds in the build-up to the 2010 CWG in New Delhi when squash, like many other sports, got additional funding from the government to plan exposure and training for the players, have hit a plateau.

Their rankings are stuck outside the top-10 (in their defence, they have managed to be within top-30), while they struggle to make any meaningful impact in big events on the world tour.

That makes us wonder how and why the rest of the Indians — young or old — have not managed to catch up.

That’s a question the Squash Racquet Federation of India (SRFI) and its coaching team should answer earnestly, post introspection, to ensure their sport remains relevant in the coming years.

In the meantime, a big season is round the corner for squash as it features in both the CWG and the Asian Games in Indonesia later this year.

CWG first, and Joshna and Dipika, who won gold in women’s doubles in 2014 Glasgow, are India’s best bet for a medal again, though a title repeat looks unlikely.

On paper, the Joshna-Dipika pairing has a fair chance to do well, but with top-ranked players teaming up for Australia, England and New Zealand, things won’t be that easy for the defending champions.

The team management, meanwhile, is also hopeful of the mixed doubles combos featuring Dipika-Ghosal and Joshna-Harinder Pal Sandhu, who will also team up with Ghosal in men’s doubles.

With their form in the last six months not exactly special, Indians are not hopeful of any inroads in singles where the men’s and women’s draws are headed by former World No 1 English players — Nick Matthew and Laura Massaro.

Ghosal, world No 14, is seeded third in the men’s draw which has world No 49 Sandhu as the 14th seed and Vikram Malhotra, who is 58th in the PSA list, is ranked 16th in the CWG draw. World No 16 Joshna is the top Indian in the women’s draw, seeded eighth, while Dipika, world No 20, is ninth.

First Published: Apr 01, 2018 10:02 IST