All that could go wrong has gone wrong for Indian squash in the last four weeks but a “disheartened” Dipika Pallikal has chosen to take it in her stride as she aims to defend the doubles gold alongside Joshna Chinappa in the Gold Coast Games beginning April 4.
The acrimonious exit of foreign coach Achraf El Karargui days before the CWG has affected the team’s preparations but medal hopefuls Pallikal, Chinappa and Saurav Ghosal remain optimistic of their chances in all three events — singles, doubles and mixed doubles.
Pallikal and Chinappa especially worked intensely with Karargui over the past two years. The squad gathered in Chennai on March 19 and will depart for Gold Coast this weekend.
“I cannot speak for others but it (not having a coach) is disheartening. I have been training with him for over two years and it is hard not to have him in your corner during the Games. Having said that, we are all professionals and we realise we have a very important job at hand, that is to defend our gold,” Pallikal told PTI.
“He (Karargui) was the biggest asset for the team. I think he has changed a lot for Indian squash. For me, I know that I will be on a phone call with him everyday. It has all gone downhill in the last four weeks and now we are just trying to move forward,” she said further.
On her chances in Gold Coast, Pallikal said wining a medal is possible in all three categories with the best bet being the women’s doubles gold she and Chinappa won in Glasgow four years ago. It was the first ever squash medal for India in Games’ history.
The doubles contest will be unpredictable like last time as only singles is played on the professional circuit.
The Indian pair upset the Malaysian combine of legendary Nicol David and Low Wee Wern before stunning the top seeds from England, Laura Massaro and Jenny Duncalf, in the gold medal match.
This time, Pallikal has a first round bye in singles and the ninth seed is drawn to meet fifth seed Alison Waters of England in the Round of 16. If she overcomes that hurdle, eight-time world champion Nicol David awaits her in the quarters.
Eighth seed Chinappa is drawn to meet second seed Joelle King in the last eight stage.
“Our best chance is women’s doubles but anything can happen in that format as we don’t play it often. As of now, singles will be played first and we are focussed on that. There is a good chance of winning a singles medal too.
“Every match is going to be hard. Without a doubt it is going to be exhausting (playing three categories). But we have managed in the past, so hopefully this time it should not be much of an issue either,” said Pallikal.
The 26-year-old has also found the extra motivation from cricketer husband Dinesh Karthik, who single-handedly won India the recent tri-series in Sri Lanka with a last-ball six.
“It has been very hard two years for both of us. We have hardly have spent anytime because of our hectic schedules. He totally deserves what he has achieved in the last one year and surely it gives me additional motivation to do well too,” she said referring to Karthik, who cheered her from the sidelines in Glasgow four years ago.