Eves make waves

The Indian women's team, which finished fifth in the world team squash championship in France recently.-

In the top eight (finishing fifth) for the first time in only their third appearance in the World Championship, the Indian women’s effort is commendable. India now gets a passage into the World Games to be held in Colombia next year. S. R. Suryanarayan takes stock.

An oft-wondered question in international squash is how the Malaysian player Nicol David has been able to maintain her stranglehold in the women’s section. With over 60 international titles and several records to enshrine her illustrious career, this 29-year old has been the number one player since 2006. At the Asian Championship in Kuwait some years ago this writer had a chance to meet this wonderful talent and seek her views on her near invincible courtcraft. With a smile she had said that she did not believe in being considered “somebody special.” According to her, she always made things simple on the court and worked hard to play to her potential. Essentially then this was the key to her longevity — potential — and this is the mantra that is slowly awakening Indian squash.

The world women’s team championship held recently in Nimes, France, reflected the growing confidence in the Indian ranks. The performances were beyond expectations and for the record, India finished fifth, the country’s best show till date. “This is an indication of the depth of talent the country now has,” said national coach Cyrus Poncha, who had accompanied the team. “Such a performance not only enhances India’s stature, but also sends the right message to the many up and coming players in the country that we can do it. I expect the current set of players, Dipika (Pallikal) Joshna (Chinappa) and Anaka (Alankamony), all young, to serve Indian squash for many more years,” he added.

The Malaysian Consultant, Maj. S. Maniam, who has been with Indian squash for over a decade now and scripted the growth plans, felt this was a natural process. “I would say what was needed was to earn a breakthrough into the top echelons in the rankings and the self-belief grows stronger. Dipika Pallikal has done that, Joshna Chinappa is following up and these two have been showcasing our abilities in a grand way in the international circuit. The impact inspires the rest,” he said. Maj. Maniam said the next phase of improvement had to be on the speed of play. “We have to go from go-kart age to FI, the speed is the essence. The faster you can play, the easier to score victories. That is when we can realistically peg up the expectations,” he added.

Still, India’s progress in a little over a decade now has been phenomenal. Today, we have the highest ranked Indian in the 21-year old Dipika — 14th in the world and well on her way to getting into the top 10. There is Saurav Ghosal, ranked 22 among the men and inching ahead. While this was encouraging, Maj. Maniam felt that “India needs to have more regular players in the WISPA and PSA circuits like Dipika, Joshna and Saurav. This is the strength of leading countries like Egypt, England, Australia and Malaysia.”

For the moment though, it is time to rejoice. In the top eight for the first time, in only its third appearance in the Worlds, the effort is commendable. India now gets a passage into the World Games to be held in Colombia next year.