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Let's help former Asian junior Champion Ravi Dixit fulfill India's squash dream

949   //    16 Jan 2016, 18:55 IST
Dixit won gold at the 2010 Asian Junior Championship

Since the 1960’s, Squash has been a critical part of India’s sporting landscape. Recent years have seen players such as Saurav Ghosal, Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa win several accolades for the country abroad. However, the sport’s lack of accessibility has often been criticised, with most players coming from metropolitan cities such as Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.

An anomaly to this entire notion is former Asian Champion, and one of India’s finest squash talents, Ravi Dixit. The 24-year old’s journey within the sports began the industrial town of Dhampur in Uttar Pradesh. The town is widely known for the presence of sugar mills, which effectively drive employment within its geographical realm.

From a small town to India’s finest – Dixit’s journey

Dixit told Sportskeeda, “My father was a sugar mill worker, the owners of the sugar mill one day opened a sports complex in the area. We used to play a lot of football, cricket, badminton etc, we didn’t even know what squash is. One day we met Vijay Kumar Goel, who ran the squash facility there. He asked us to start playing and in the beginning I wasn’t even being able to hit the ball. The sheer frustration drove me to continue.”

Having taken up squash in 2001, Dixit quickly climbed the junior hierarchy to reach the Indian national team by 2004. He added, “During those three years, I worked on my game, and thanks to my Coach I kept getting better and better. By 2002, I was travelling to different cities to play. Chennai and Mumbai had become frequent haunts. But 2004 was the year for me.”

Indeed it was, he would go onto win bronze at the Asian Junior Championship (Under 15), highlighting his meteoric rise from a small town to prodigal medal winner. Post his Under-15 success, Dixit would consistently climb the hierarchy winning consecutive national championships in the U-17 level. His next major international success, and arguably his finest came at the Under-19 Asian Junior Championship, where he would go onto win gold.

He said, “This was the biggest achievement in my career so far, I generally don’t think about the future much. Hence I was taking it game by game, and it finally worked. That also helped me get into the senior team. In 2012, I also won the silver medal at the World Cup.”

At this particular point, Dixit had won enough tournaments, and was self-fundin his journey, through the professional squash circuit, along with the help of the Dhampur Sugar mills. The boy from Dhampur, who didn’t even know about the existence of squash was now ranked 113th in the world. However, it was around this time, a budding career’s financial plight began.

Had to take care of family, all earnings were invested in that: Dixit

He said, “It was around this time, I had to get my sister married off, and take care of my household responsibilities. My father was a sugar mill worker, and I was the only one working. I had to take care of my entire family. I spent a lot of my earning for my sister’s wedding and the medical treatment of my parents.”

From playing 10 tournaments in a year, Dixit started playing just two to three, due to his current financial instability. He said, “The Federation helped a lot, but you have to understand for a squash player to get better they have to play international tournaments. Players from other cities come from affluent backgrounds, but I don’t have that kind of luxury. I fought for each and every penny, for the country. Now I need the people’s help to get me back on track.”

Recently, Dixit created headlines when he wanted to auction his kidney, in order to play the Asian Senior Championship in May. However, within hours he apologised for his comments. Several media outlets slammed his alleged claims, calling it a publicity stunt. However, he believes it was more of a cry for help.

He said, “I was really troubled at the time, for so many years I represented my country and when I did well everyone was there to help. Now that I’m not playing as much, I’m barely receiving any support when I need the most. This mixed with the fact that I recently lost my brother’s daughter, who I was realised. I have not even being receiving my tournament participation grant. I know I still have the ability, all I need is to get there.”

Currently ranked 211th in the world, Dixit hasn’t played a single match since early last year, backing up his lack of participation claim. Instead of judging him based on one social media post, we fail to recognise the very core of the arguments. We have a potential top 100 squash player, who has fought the odds coming from a small town, and at his prime, he is not being able to compete against the world’s finest.

Squash is expensive, it needs Rs 10 lakhs a year for a professional: Dixit

He added, “The yearly cost for me to attend tournaments is around Rs 10-12 lakhs. For a tournament in Asia you have to shell out about Rs 60,00 – Rs 70,000. For a tournament in Europe it’s more than Rs 1 lakh and in the USA it’s about two lakhs. I should ideally be playing 10 tournaments a year. However, right now I have no sponsor and I’m hoping the people of India can recognise my contribution to the sport.”

That’s not all the cost he has to incur. The cost of his entire equipment is close to Rs 1 lakh, reinforcing squash’s elitist notion among the mass. He added, “My entire kit itself is Rs 1 lakh, the ball itself costs Rs 150, which is a very difficult cost for me to bear right now. If I break one racquet, the cost of that is close to Rs 7,000. It is an expensive sport, but I didn’t think twice before taking up, because I want to win for India.”

The hunger and drive to win still exists within Dixit, who aims to reach the world top 100, by the end of next year. He currently needs Rs 8 lakhs to reach the Asian Senior Championship, let us the people of India support him in his journey as he has never failed us even once!

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Sports journalist, dream to see India at the pinnacle of the sporting landscape one day.
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