Joshna Chinappa: The helmsman of Indian squash

In such dire situations where little focus is paid to sports like badminton, table tennis or squash except during the occasional multi-sporting events, it was incredibly necessary for a person to step up from each of these sports and be the helmsman to help it rise and make a dash for the spotlight.

It was in times like this that Squash, another incredibly nail-biting racket sport found it’s helmsman in Joshna Chinappa.

The Kodagu-born Chinappa shot into the limelight when she was just 17.

She created history as soon as she turned pro in the year 2003 when she became the first Indian player to win the British Squash Championship in the Under 19 category that very year. There has been no looking back ever since. Chinappa has her hands in shaping up squash in India and making it a palettable sport for the cricket-crazy nation. Although squash is played by 20 billion people all over the world, it never did receive much popularity before the likes of Chinappa stepped in to give this sport a much need elevation of status. Squash remains to be included in the Olympics too.

The girl from Chennai who is 15 days shy of celebrating her 32nd birthday pulled off the most remarkable feat today at the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games when she fought off eight-time World Champion Nicol David from Malaysia.

David who has scarcely known the face of failure in her 18-year spanning brilliant career was quite humbled by the defeat to Chinappa. The Malaysian who has held the top spot in the World Rankings for a record 108 consecutive weeks, came down fighting to a brilliant and fiery Chinappa who showed her grit to oust David in a 12-10, 11-9, 6-11, 10-12, 11-9 victory! After having broken down in the last match where she lost to familiar rival Annie Au of Hong Kong, Chinappa was determined to make today count.

With this majestic feat, the Indian’s have succeeded in outplaying the defending champions in the team event, Malaysia. However, it was Chinappa’s sheer resilience which shone through and showed how brilliant a sportsperson she is. Having been in the circuit for quite some time, Chinappa has been moulded wise with victories, losses, injuries and the numbing experience of it all decorating her record-lit career.

The English graduate from Ethiraj College, however, traces back her present greatness to her genetics. Born into a family where squash was a familiar occupant of their lives for the previous four generations, the sport came naturally to her after she was initiated into it by her father, Anjan Chinappa who had represented his state, Tamil Nadu several times.

It was by interlacing her baby fingers around her father’s strong ones that she came to take up squash and loving it,  ‘ He is my inspiration, and he introduced me to the sport when I was a kid at the Madras Cricket Club. I owe taking the sport up seriously to him,’ said the 31-year-old to The Bridge in a previous exclusive interview.

Not only that Joshna’s great-grandfather Field Marshall KM Cariappa, who was also the first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, was a regular player of squash. It seems as if Chinappa’s blood was coursing with squash just as she was born, waiting for the right moment to pulsate and throb to push forth the adrenaline and realise the records she has today.

2018 has been nothing short of a fairytale for the youngest National Champion who defeated Nicol David in straight games in the April-held El Gouna World Series Event. Aside from pulling off that upset that gave her an obvious high, the stellar duo of Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal took the silver medal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April too! It was also this pair who became the first one to clinch a Commonwealth Games medal in the sport and that too a gold one in the year 2014.

Having had defeated Nicol earlier this year, Chinappa made sure that she didn’t let the Malaysian legend get to her and pulled off another major upset in her remarkably long career.

With massive Malaysian support in the crowd, Chinappa didn’t let it get to her and showed a calm attitude. Although the match had some breathless rallies and crucial points, it was Chinappa’s day today as she caused this major upset by outplaying Nicol David, who has been a five-time gold medallist in the Singles category of the Asian Games. With this spectacular win, India has sailed into the Finals of the Asian Games and are most likely to lock horns with long time rivals Hong Kong.

Chinappa, at 31, is an inspiration, to say the least. Her name has been doing the rounds ever since squash as a sport was mouthed around in India.  Having an injury-inflicted career, the former World No.10 player has always been a powerhouse of talent and a person of records. She has achieved a near-impossible feat by defeating an eight time World Champion and right now, she is nothing short of a legend herself that the world of Indian squash can boast about for years to come.


Also read: Unnoticed, Indian Squash scripts best ever Asian Games medal tally