The Indian national squash team has been training without a full-time coach since 2018 after Achraf El Karargui resigned following a bitter spat with SRFI.



New Delhi: Indian Squash player Dipika Pallikal criticised the Squash Racquets Federation of India (SRFI) on Friday for not being able to appoint a coach since the pre-mature exit of Egypt’s Achraf El Karargui, stating the situation as “sad and frustrating.”

The Indian national team has been training without a coach after Karargui put in his papers following a bitter spat with SRFI, ahead of the Commonwealth games last year (2018).

“It is sad and frustrating. That’s the first norm in any sport. I am not surprised at all. Indian squash has always been like this,” Pallikal said during an interaction with The Sunday Guardian at the launch of Adidas VRCT jacket.

The 27-year-old believes the current scenario is baffling and it will affect juniors if not herself and other senior players like Joshna Chinappa and Sourav Ghoshal.

“Nothing has been done of it yet. No one has stepped in. Be the federation and the ministry. The situation won’t affect me because I am on a break now. Even it doesn’t really matter to seniors like Sourav, Joshna because they always have been based abroad. But it really affects the juniors. They don’t have a coach, no proper programme, no system and there is no structure in place that players can follow. It obviously is a very sad situation,” she said.

“You have to have a coach in place if you want to see squash grow in India and more players coming out and winning World Championships and gold at Commonwealth games.

“If you don’t have a coach, you probably won’t see those juniors grow,” a concerned Pallikal added.

Pallikal became the first Indian to break into the top 10 in the PSA Women’s rankings in December 2012. She is currently on a break from the sport but has her eyes set on the Asian and Commonwealth games.

“I have taken a year off from squash since last October-November. But eventually I do want to make a comeback when I am ready. My goal is to comeback fully fit and injury free for the Commonwealth and Asian games,” she said.

“Last year was a difficult one with Commonwealth and Asian Games. Just travelling and being on the road all the time. I needed to step back and try and feel motivated again. Try and get that fire back in me. I felt stagnated. I wasn’t moving up in the rankings…wasn’t going down. I wanted to take a step back and reflect. I am slowly getting my answers now. I will make a comeback. I miss the sport terribly,” Pallikal said.

Asian Games gold medallist heptathlete Swapna Barman, who recently won Arjuna Award, was also present at the event.

When asked about her preparations for the Olympic qualifications, she said, “Olympics is everyone’s dream. I am practicing hard and will give my best in the qualifications round. It all depends on the points (6420 points), which is too high. None of the Asian countries have been able to get it. I am not very sure but I will definitely try,” Swapna said.

Swapna’s personal best is 6,026 which came at the Asian Games in 2018. She was conferred the Arjuna Award last month. The 22-year-old became the first athlete to get such an honour after Soma Biswas in 2003.

“Winning the award has made me a lot hungrier now. I have to perform well in the upcoming tournaments, ” Swapna said.

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