The grand trio of Indian squash: Saurav Ghosal, Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal
Upcoming talents of yesterday, star players thereafter and professionals now who yearn to be heard with their thought-provoking statements. Well, time really flies! It seemed only the other day that Saurav Ghosal, Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal, all school kids stormed the courts in the Indian Squash Academy with their bountiful enthusiasm and gay abandon. How they have evolved and become icons of such standing!
One remembers them from those early days of the new millennium, all innocent children and keen to learn the ropes with unmistakable intent of making it big in the sport. There was Consultant coach Maj S. Maniam (now having left for his home Malaysia after a long tenure) ever ready to help them out and of course, National coach Cyrus Poncha around to keep a close eye on their skill-development.
Children will be children and these talents too were no different. With mother or father there to ensure the emotional attachment, they would go through the routines with little to complain and indeed little early then to dream big. One particularly remembers Saurav, the diminutive dynamite as he whistled past here and there. It did not matter the settings and environment were alien to his young mind. He was coming from Kolkata but he adapted real quick. And then such was his energy levels!
Squash was still to earn the name it has now. These were the future stars and sure enough led the way in the course of time to eye-catching moments with their exploits after the careful tuning up at the Academy. The organised manner in which the coaching and training took place made the three a wholesome finished product as squash players and once rich in their skills, each found their way for advanced training abroad and at other places and in the hands of other individuals.
The deeds followed soon after. While keen observers were convinced then itself, looking into the way Saurav, Joshna and Dipika came up, that squash was in for a big surprise down the line, nobody had perhaps dreamt the level to which they would rise and inspire.
Hard work pays off
Hearing them talk years later as young models of the sport was pleasant, a feeling that squash has come some way in India, brought forth by such lovely proud stars who not only demand respect for the way they have been keeping the India flag flying high but reminding the sports fraternity of what more is in store for this sport.
As Saurav rightly said at the press conference in Mumbai held as part of the National championship, with all the wisdom of a hardcore professional, unlike Golf, Formula I or Cricket which hardly needs an Olympics arena to thrive, a sport like squash has much to gain. Like any other leading world player, from the redoubtable Nicol David downwards, he too lent voice to the thinking of every squash lover the world over.
The grand trio of Indian squash had amongst them collected a bagful of international titles, honours and recognitions. All of them are currently in the top 20 in the world with Joshna in the first-10. Surely they will strive to polish that deed further in the seasons ahead but for all this, each of them will still have that emotional feeling that maybe they would not be around when squash makes it to the Olympics sometime beyond 2020.
That will be the dilemma of every top world player of the day. Still, there is no question when one day the big moment comes and the world will remember the efforts of these stars, the Indians included.
It is from a sapling that a tree rises big and strong. How strong and well-nurtured the sapling grows depends on the protagonists. Undoubtedly Saurav, Joshna and Dipika were just that. They were among the biggest influences in India's surge and also in pushing further the sport’s name and fame in the world, along with the best in the business to a level when the Olympic cry has become shriller. How time flies!