For a country that loves its sports, Squash has a funding problem. Newly crowned world doubles champions Dipika Pallikal Karthik and Joshna Chinappa couldn’t agree more.
In an exclusive chat with CNBC-TV18, both players — multiple medal-winners in their own right — said that their recent world championship could be a step in the right direction for Indian Squash on the popularity charts.
“It has not been easy to get funding or get recognised — we have secured funding, but it hasn’t been easy,” says Dipika. “The process of getting funding even for a top-10 player for events in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games could be a lot easier for international athletes.”
Her teammate, Joshna, agrees. “The goal right now, is to enjoy our moment and appreciate the people who have come forward to support us, and hopefully increase our funding so that we get to play more tournaments, work harder and play with the best,” she says, “But we are grateful for the support from the government and squash federations.”
The candid comments come just a fortnight after Dipika and Joshna did the country proud by winning Gold in the World Doubles Squash Championship in the Women’s Doubles category. The duo beat England’s Sarah-Jane Perry and Alison Waters 11-9, 4-11, 11-8.
India emerged victorious in the Mixed Doubles category too, where Dipika and compatriot Saurav Ghosal (who also happens to be her brother-in-law) beat Alison Waters and Adiran Waller 11-6, 11-8.
The championship win is, no doubt, sweeter for Dipika in particular, as it involved an international comeback after a gap of over three years. Late last year, the Squash star who is incidentally married to Indian cricketer Dinesh Karthik, gave birth to twins.
“I missed spending time with my teammates in these three years,” she says, “Just being on the court, being with them and winning Gold while I was at it, tops it all.”
However, neither Dipika nor Joshna are not new to big-ticket victories. Both players have multiple titles under their belt, including medals at the Asian and Commonwealth Games. Continuing to do well at these tournaments continues to be a priority for Joshna, “I just want to put my head down and get down to training — the goal is to win gold at the Asian and Commonwealth Games.”
As the conversation draws back to funding, both champions agree that the major issue with funding for Indian Squash is quite simply a popularity problem. After all, the game pales in comparison to better-known racquet sports like tennis and badminton. Could their championship change that perception, now?
“The win will increase the popularity of the sport a lot more, and this only happens when we win because people forget the path that we’ve gone through to get here,” says Joshna, “Cricket, tennis and badminton are big sports …….