The clock hands are restlessly sliding over each other and with every crucial minute wasted now, it will be very expensive come the 18th of this month when the Asian Games saga will begin. Time has ticked rapidly and at the very last minute, there seems to be quite a lot of mayhem and trouble emanating from the eye of the storm which the squash camp has transformed into.
At a moment where every step taken becomes critical and powerful enough to mould the performance of the squash contingent in Asiad, Dipika Pallikal Karthik, has stirred a controversy.
According to PTI, Dipika has spoken on how the absence of a foreign coach is going to possibly take a heavy toll on their medal chances this time. The double silver-winner from the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April this year, has questioned and pointed fingers at the presence of national coach Cyrus Poncha and 16-time National Champion Bhuvneshwari Kumari in the squash contingent, even going the distance to rue about how they are more of administrators and not coaches.
With this news spreading like wildfire, all eyes are trained on the squash camp. The SRFI conveyed to The Bridge that it “stoutly refutes the insinuation by Dipika Pallikal Karthik in various newspapers that the lack of a Foreign Coach has been a big blow for the Indian team.” Ahead of any quadrennial multi-sporting extravaganza, this kind of news is bound to go viral and take the focus off the training of the players and leave them distraught at a moment when every minute is expensive for the country.
Both Poncha and Bhuvneshwari Kumari have “been travelling for key international events with the players since 2002,” the SRFI stated. There is absolutely no reason for such allegations to surface at a very volatile moment ahead of the Asian Games.
Dipika, betrothed to cricketer Dinesh Karthik, has drawn the attention to the fact how the absence of Egyptian coach Achraf Karagui since April has been a severe to the national squash team, as it’s supposedly devoid of “top-class” coaches. The SRFI clarified that Achraf had created quite a stir with his exit but the reason behind it was personal.
“A federation spokesman referring to the exit of the Egyptian Coach Achraf Karargui said that the Egyptian official had left due to personal reasons and one of which was the intense squabbling between the two leading women Indian players In fact Achraf had even cut his ties and decided to train only Dipika and refused to travel with the other player for any tournament thereafter,” conveyed the Federation to The Bridge.
Angered by the fingers being raised towards Poncha and Kumari now, the SRFI believes, Pallikal is using the absence of the Egyptian to propel her case against the Federation “for not accepting her request to attest/ratify A. Parthiban as her coach to enable the latter to draw the financial benefits which come under the awards scheme.”
What is even more interesting is that the SRFI has come to discover that “..she(Dipika) had nominated A. Parthiban as her coach in approaching the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (That did not require attestation of the Federation) and this helped A. Parthiban to receive the Rs 9 lakh benefit, thanks to the two silver medals that Dipika had won in the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia early this year.”
Looking to uplift her coach on several occasions, Dipika has tried to pull strings wherever possible for her coach’s sake. But sadly, “The Federation did not accept her request to attest/ratify him as a coach to help her present his case to the Union Sports Ministry for drawing similar benefits from the centre,” the SRFI asserted.
If we are to delve into the hard facts of the case, there have been instances where Poncha and Bhuvneshwari might have donned an important role in guiding the team to victories.
“Poncha and Kumari at the Gold Coast CWG provided enough inputs on strategy and play and that had benefited the players. India it must be said the players returned with two silver medals (mixed doubles – Saurav Ghosal and Dipika and women’s doubles -Joshna Chinappa and Dipika). Poncha & Kumari were the coaches at the 2014 Asian Games.”
The irony lies somewhere else altogether. Dipika’s sudden and “unseemly” behavior is strongly regretted by the SRFI. Several e-mails spanning across 2017 have recorded instances of Dipika feeling grateful towards having Poncha on board as his inputs had helped. The gold medal winner from the 2014 Glasgow CWG, has previously acknowledged Cyrus Poncha’s role in the contingent, even as early as the 25th of January, 2017.
“Your valuable comments , strategies before matches , court sessions with you coaches before matches will really make a difference to the results we create on tour,” the e-mail proclaims.
There have been repeated mails also sent by the player to try and pull in her coach into this Federation-selected contingent. On 21st September, 2017, Dipika showed her earnestness and pleaded for the same cause in yet another e-mail.
“I will always respect the federation but having said that I will repeat myself again and again that I will always like to have my coach travel with me for all my tournaments as he plays an integral part of my career.”
The SRFI has enough on their platter already and a terrible issue like this cropping up in the nick of time is bound to invite a lot of bedlam. “Cementing their thoughts, the Federation wishes to state that Mr. Cyrus Poncha is the only Level – III coach in India, an accredited World Squash Federation Level – II Tutor and the only Dronacharya Awardee for squash in India which should not lead to further confusions especially at this moment,” said SRFI.
The Federation believes that such distractions could prove fatal at the current moment when the need of the hour is for them to join together and work for bringing more laurels to the country. The fact that an effort is being made to disrupt the mind-set of all concerned with the preparations for the Games is very upsetting.
With just barely two days to go before all the actions unfurl, no time must be spent pondering on such allegations. The focus right now should be trained on bagging that elusive medal and not obsessing over the supposed lack of proper coaches in the team. If that really is an issue then today is not the day and this month not the month to address it, for the sake of safeguarding the medal chances of the country at least.