CHENNAI: It was a worrying Sunday for store owners at Express Avenue mall. Most of the shops wore an empty look 4.30 pm onwards. Towards the top left, a group was waving the Tricolour. With barely any sale happening, focus was all on the blue-tinted glass court that looked a little faded after five gruelling days of squash.
Some who were not able to view the action were stretching to catch a glimpse of scores on the TV screen. It was like Chennaiities and others at the shopping complex had developed a sudden interest in the sport. When plans to conduct the 19th individual Asian Squash Championship at a mall was doing the rounds, organisers were a little anxious about spectators. On Sunday, they slept peacefully.
“It's fantastic. I don't think we can find better crowds anywhere else in the city. Full credit goes to Cyrus Poncha (tournament director) and team. We will definitely host more events like this in the future,” said N Ramachandran, patron of Squash Racket Federation of India.
The day had all the elements and drama of a championship final. Any sport can go horribly wrong when monitored by poor refereeing. Joshna Chinappa, who became the first Indian to win the prestigious trophy, called the referee, Samuel Chan of Malaysia, a cheat during her third game in the final against Dipika Pallikal. She apologised later. Dipika was not happy with some of the decisions either.
“I did say he was a cheat. I apologised to the referee. In the third game, the ball was down and she actually walked off but I played the ball because the referee didn't call it. And the last point was a stroke as well to me. And the referee gave it as a let. Both points were mine. That's why I told the referee he was cheating. I later apologised and he understood because he knew he had got it wrong. I don't talk to referees unless I'm absolutely right,” Joshna said.
“I say this at every tournament. Players are improving their game, but the referees are so... The referees have no clue what’s happening in the court. A lot of people will say that. I didn’t react so much the way I would have liked,” Dipika opined.
But in the end, both agreed that these things are part and parcel of sports. Joshna, who is senior to Dipika, said she is always in touch with her and they are good friends. The duo had a heated match during the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon where Dipika got the better of her rival.
But things are calm outside the court, according to Joshna. “We have a really good relationship now. We watch each other's matches. We train, play and shop together. She is definitely one of my friends off the court,” said the 30-year-old.
Silver for Ghosal
While all attention was on Joshna and Dipika, Saurav Ghosal who was the other Indian finalist, had a day to forget against Max Lee of Hong Kong. The World No 16 was in command of the men's final from the beginning. “I am a little sad. I came here with a plan. I wanted to win,” Saurav said.