Dipika Pallikal on returning to squash and other priorities

In a short chat, the squash player tells us why sports other than cricket need recognition

Clad in all orange, Indian squash star, Dipika Pallikal’s outfit is in aesthetic contrast with the deep blue velvets of the Daniel Wellington Store in VR Chennai, Anna Nagar. Sporting a silver, rose gold plated ring on her finger and a sleek bracelet from the DW Classic collection, she is in town to unveil the Classic Ring component of the collection by the eight-year-old watch brand.

In a conversation on the sidelines, Pallikal tells us of her issues with cricket, her aspirations after receiving a Padma Shri, her schedules with her husband, cricketer Dinesh Karthik and her plans for the future. “We are seven grand daughters in our family,” she says, grinning. “We’ve always had the freedom to make mistakes and then learn from them,” she adds, describing how she has never faced obstacles like many other girls who pursue sports have.

Being a woman, she strongly advocates equality in terms of rewards for sports as evident in her 2015 boycott of the National Squash Championship which gave women lesser prize money than men. Her dislike for cricket stems from similar grounds. “It’s crazy that we still live in a cricket-only world, in India. Indian athletes are doing great in the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and even, the Olympics. But it’s still difficult to get Government exemptions: I play a sport like squash, that not many corporates sponsor.”

“Sport is very hard for a top athlete, there are so many forms to fill, so many formalities and we train so hard,” she continues. “But you never really stop aspiring. Even after the Arjuna Award and the Padma Shri, I have short-term and long-term goals that I need to achieve.”

Dipika Pallikal on returning to squash and other priorities

Dipika is no stranger to responsibilities, having been the Asian representative on the prestigious Athletes Advisory Commission for the Commonwealth Games Federation. She was one of the seven members on the Commission. “After the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games in 2018, I took a few months off. It was quite a year for me.” I wanted to soak in some time to see how my career pans out. And I also wanted to be there for Dinesh: being on the Indian cricket team for the ICC World Cup is a huge deal,” she adds. “I intend to comeback to squash again this September.”

Ambition is a topic she is fiery about. “There is no balance, nor is there a schedule. Dinesh and I are both goal-driven people. It has been a strenuous last three years with the buildup to the Cricket World Cup. We hardly get to meet. I think that is the downside of our marriage,” she adds with a laugh.

Dipika describes her relationship with Chennai-based squash player Joshna Chinappa, ranked 15 on Professional Squash Association women’s rankings, as one of mutual respect. “As the Indian squash team, we are a closely knit group and have a great time together. Joshna and I have always put the country first, regardless of who wins.”

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