Chennai: Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa, winners of India’s first-ever gold medal at the Commonwealth Games squash competitions, were accorded a rousing welcome on their arrival here from Glasgow, Scotland, early Tuesday.
Coach Maj S. Maniam and players Anaka Alankamony and Harinder Singh Sandhu accompanied Pallikal and Chinappa, both Chennai-based, but others Saurav Ghosal, Mahesh Mangaonkar and coach Bhuvaneshari Kumari had re-routed their journey to their respective homes in Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi.
Coaches from the Indian Squash Academy (ISA), led by National coach Cyrus Poncha, were in attendance with garlands to greet and welcome the team members and officials. Parents and other squash enthusiasts were also present to welcome the players.
For the ISA, this was also a special moment because the entire planning and coaching had happened there for this Indian side as part of the ongoing process of giving squash a new direction in the country.
Poncha said: “We had realised after the Delhi CWG four years ago that concentrating on doubles could be our best bet. And with Joshna and Dipika in the top rung in the world rankings, the bet was on them.
“We would have loved Saurav and Harinder, too, to have joined in the medals bracket, but England has a healthy dominance in the men’s and mixed sections and that made things difficult.”
Poncha pointed out that the players realised the importance of taking advantage of the shorter tin height (only 13 inches) and a reflection of their growing confidence came in the tri-nation series in Malaysia in June where India won the women’s (Joshna and Dipika) and the mixed doubles (Ghosal and Dipika) titles while New Zealand won the men’s doubles title.
Maniam said: “The girls with their success have certainly given Indian squash a shot in the arm. I would say it was a culmination of a long drawn process of structural training and proper planning.
“The players gained a strong foundation at the Academy and rightly some of them ventured out to spar with the best players abroad to polish their skills further. This is the trend the world over for that is the way to go. Joshna and Dipika are doing just that and the results are showing.”