Dipika Pallikal: Disheartening to see the state of Indian squash

The squash star criticises the Squash Racquets Federation of India for failing to appoint a coach since April, 2018.

File Photo: Dipika Pallikal is currently taking a break from the professional circuit.   -  M. Vedhan

Criticising the Squash Racquets Federation of India (SRFI) for failing to appoint a coach since April, 2018, Dipika Pallikal has said the state of squash in the country was “disheartening.”

Indian players have been training without a full-time coach ever since Egyptian Achraf Karargui left on a bitter note ahead of the Commonwealth Games last year. “If you want to try and take squash forward in the country, the first rule is to have a coach. It’s just bizarre to head to the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games without a coach. It’s just disheartening to see what is happening to Indian squash,” Dipika told PTI on the sidelines of the launch of the Adidas VRCT jacket.

‘Not the best scenario’

Dipika, the first Indian to break into the top 10, felt the SRFI needed to have a structure in place for Indians to become a formidable force at the world level. “There has to be a proper structured program, scheduling, etc. in place. To try and become world champions a lot of planning has to be done. It’s not the best scenario in the country right now without a coach.”

Top players like herself, Joshna Chinappa, Saurav Ghosal escape the charade of the coaches coming and going by basing themselves abroad, she pointed out. However, the juniors didn’t have the liberty to do that and the federation needed to provide them proper training and guidance, she felt.

‘Scary’

“After Joshna and myself there is no one. How are you going to fill the No. 3, 4, 5 spots? If things continue like this, in five-six years we will not have any players. It is scary to [see] where squash will be in the next few years. You need world-class coaches to guide your players. What is the use of having tournaments without coaches? The players need to become world-class and then go on playing tournaments. After that, make them play a lot of tournaments to get exposure then send them out internationally. After that, send them outside India to train. All of us have done the same. So these are just some of the basic rules all of us have followed.”

Earlier this year, the SRFI had decided against hiring a full-time coach and instead opted for event-based coaching which hasn’t materialised yet. Dipika was hesitant about the concept. “Personally, I don’t think that will work. Because it’s like saying I’m going to be with someone else and when I have a tournament, someone else is going to coach me. That person may have nothing to do with your game. The connect won’t be there which is very important. The player need someone full-time. I don’t how it will work out but personally, it won’t work for me.”

Unilateral decision-making

Dipika, who is currently taking a break from the professional circuit, also pointed out that the federation doesn’t communicate with the players before taking key decisions.

“I haven’t been on the tour for a year but before that, the federation never took the opinions of the player. They didn’t come to us to ask if we needed Achraf in the [Commonwealth Games]. In the Asian Games, there was this huge drama over national coach and Saurav, Joshna and myself ended up coaching each other.”