Indian squash player Dipika Pallikal feels the presence of former world number one James Willstrop and former world champion Grégory Gaultier, in their Asian Games camp, will benefit the team immensely.
She is preparing for the Games at the Indian Squash Academy here.
Speaking to PTI during an interaction on the sidelines of the Asian Games camp, she said, “It’s been a good session with them (Greg and James). I have played at the same club as James. So, we have known each other for a long time. It’s really nice to have them here and sharing their experiences with us.
“I think initiatives like Greg and James coming down is a great one. It will really help us do well, and hopefully, this trend carries on, and they (SRFI) cater it to the juniors as well, because having them near the juniors and sharing their experience will be great.” The 31-year-old Dipika has won four medals at the Games (three bronze and a silver) and would be eager to win the gold this time around.
Talking about her motivation and what keeps her going, she said, “I don’t play in the professional circuit anymore, so it’s very hard to keep myself motivated. I have been true to my goals, which I want to achieve. My love for the sport gets me going.” When asked about the pressure to deliver as a senior player, she noted that while there is no extra pressure on her, she is happy being a part of the team.
“Not really (any pressure). I know for a fact that I will lend my hand to any of the juniors in the team. I have obviously been one of the juniors in the team, been a regular in the team, and now, I am a senior in the team.
“It’s been a long career and journey. I am just happy being a part of the team.” Elaborating on her preparations for the Games, she added, “We still have three more weeks to go for the competition, so we are just trying to fine-tune. We have all trained really hard and worked towards this moment.” Besides the match fitness and physical preparation, mental preparation also plays a strong role in any sport.
Articulating on the same, Dipika feels that one should try to keep it simple and not overthink.
“The key thing is to keep it simple and not to overthink just because it’s the Commonwealth Games or the Asian Games. I have played in four Asian Games so far, so I know that the Games is a very important part of the squash calendar, especially in India and squash in general, since we are not a part of the Olympic Games.
“It’s important to try and simplify it in your head like it’s just another game. And, if you work towards it, automatically the results will happen. So, think about the process rather than the result.” Rating India’s chances at the Games, Dipika maintained that the key would be to take it one match at a time, besides highlighting that all the players are aware of their roles and responsibilities.
“We have five categories, and in all of them, we are in it to win it. We are seeded very high in all the draws, but it’s the Asian Games at the end of the day, and everyone’s working hard for it and coming out to play their best.
“The main goal is to get through each category first, obviously, the team events first, followed by the singles and the doubles. Simply, take it one match at a time, and the results will come,” she continued.
“Everyone’s professional, know what their capabilities are, besides knowing who they are playing against. Everyone knows their game plans.
“The main thing is to stay focused because people get carried away, as because it’s the Asian Games that comes once in four years. But, whatever I have experienced for the last 20 years of my career, things will come and go.”
“It’s just about enjoying that moment, being there for each other and being surrounded by positive thoughts. We are a happy bunch, we get along pretty well, and hopefully, we can make some good memories in China as well.”
Dipika is the second senior-most player in the Indian squash side at the Games after Joshna Chinappa, and when asked about defining her responsibilities with the side, she said that they would do everything to help the juniors.
“In the girls, myself and Joshna (Chinappa) go a long way back. We know each other really well.
“We will just be there for each other. Keep it simple, and not overcomplicate it. If they need anything in terms of match preparation or plan, myself and Joshna will be there.” She also praised the young duo of Tanvi Khanna and Anahat Singh.
“Tanvi and Anahat are new to the team and I have played with both in competitive outings. Anahat has a lot of potential.” Dipika also spoke briefly about her future post Asian Games.
“I don’t know if this is going to be my last Games. It’s a thought that has been going on in my head, but I have not really sat down and taken a decision on it.” While India is expected to be one of the contenders for medals, Dipika is expecting a tough challenge from three more sides.
“Definitely our competition will be against Malaysia; they are at the top of the desk. But anyone can challenge anyone on any given day, with Japan and Korea also doing well,” she signed off.
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