Squash wasn’t a sport that people flocked to watch. It was only in 2011, when a young woman named Dipika Pallikal won the Orange County Open in Irvine, California, that people started getting attracted to the sport. Currently ranked #19 in the world, she is also the first Indian squash player to be conferred with the Arjuna Award.
The 24-year-old tied the knot with cricketer Dinesh Karthik almost a year ago. Promoting P&G Shiksha’s school initiative in Chennai, the couple spoke to the kids about their school days. While Dinesh taught the boys how to bat, Deepika showed them how she served.
Deepika jokingly says that Dinesh and her bond over everything other than sports and it does not play a role in their relationship. “We try not to talk about our respective sports because after a tiring day, both of us do not want to think about it. But we do enjoy watching different sports,” she says. She started off playing the sport at the age of 10, when she saw a pamphlet at her school about a squash camp. “My best friend went for it and I joined her. I used to play Tennis until then,” she says. After that there was no a turning back.
Growing up playing squash, Dipika says that she did not have a role model in India to look up to. “It was about me setting my own goals and achieving them. Here, you need to have a face for each sport. Badminton gained publicity through Saina Nehwal. So, role models are very important,” she says. At the same time she said that the superhero in her life is her coach Sarah Fitzgerald. “The scenario is not the same as it was five years ago. I think it is becoming an elite sport in the country. People will start recognising us squash players once we win medals for the country and that is happening now,” she says. She feels that a lot can be done at the grassroot level to help the sport.
At the same time, she is very happy to be the face of Indian squash and enjoys the responsibility that comes with it. “I truly enjoy that responsibility. You can take it in a positive way as well as a negative way. Whenever I play squash, I think that there is a country behind me, wanting me to win. It is actually very nice,” she says.
Reach Out: twitter.com/dipikapallikal