Ask anyone in the Indian Sub-continent about Dinesh Karthik and they will tell you that Karthik is a wicket-keeper batsman, who plays for India. Now ask them who is Dipika Pallikal and chances are they will come out with blank stares. Regardless of the fact that Dipika is a highly accomplished squash professional, whose current world ranking is 12, the lack of sporting interest in squash makes Dipika just another person. Cricket’s dominating influence in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh makes squash an eminently forgettable sport. The same is true of many other sports in the sub-continent. Dipika Pallikal is currently making waves in professional squash circuit but Dinesh Karthik is much better known, even if he proved to be a big flop in Asia Cup, where India couldn’t figure in the final. Dipika’s compatriot Joshna Chinappa is another gifted squash player and so is Saurav Ghosal, who is no. 15 in the men’s world ranking. But none of these players figure in any discussions amongst India’s sports enthusiasts, for whom cricket is the only sport. But to credit the Indian squash players, they have reconciled to their unwarranted relegation from sporting arena and carried on as true professionals. Since this discussion started with Dinesh Karthik, it needs to end with him as well. To Dinesh Karthik’s credit, it must be said that he knows something about squash. Despite being a cricketer and a valued one at that, because, recently the Delhi daredevils spent 125 million rupees to acquire him, Karthik knows Dipika Pallikal’s value. Why else will he want to get married to her? The cricketer got engaged to Dipika, sometime back, though the marriage date has not been announced yet.
Dipika Pallikal is the first Indian woman to figure within the top 10 in the rankings released by the Women’s Squash Association in 2012. She fell to no. 12 in April 2014 but on the strength of her latest performances, it should come as no surprise if Dipika regains her place within the top 10 yet again. In 2011, she won three professionals tournaments and finished as a runner-up in the 2012 Tournament of Champions at New York, losing to Natalie Grinham of the Netherlands. In 2012, Dipika also reached the semifinal of Australian Open but lost to the no. 3 seed Laura Massaro of Great Britain in a hard-fought 5-game battle. In February 2013, however, Dipilka took her sixth WSA title, by winning the Meadowood Pharmacy Open in Winnipeg, Canada. The losing finalist and second seed Joey Chan from Hong Kong was no match to Dipika as the score-line of 11-9, 11-7, 11-4 would suggest. Her only real hurdle to the tournament victory came in the semifinal, when the British 4th seed Sarah-Jane Perry gave her a scare.
On Monday April 14, 2014, Dipika Pallikal was in news once again. She had worked her way to the final of the Women’s Champion Fiberglass Texas Open but lost in the final. The 22-year old Dipika had a great run in the tournament as she defeated the 8th seed Madeline Perry of Northern Ireland in the semifinal. But in the final the Indian girl met the teenage sensation from Egypt Nour El Sherbini. The 18-year old Sherbini appeared to continue with the form of her life since she defeated the greatest squash player in the world, Nicole David of Malaysia. In yesterday’s final, El Sherbini took just 48 minutes to end Dipika’s challenge.
Incidentally, Nicole David’s phenomenal performance in squash has only one comparison and that too with compatriot men’s badminton legend Lee Chong Wei. Just as Chong Wei has ruled the world of badminton for about 9-10 years now, Nicole David has done the same in Squash for nearly the same period.