There is a positive change in the sports scene in India and this is just the beginning...S.R. Suryanarayan in conversation with squash player Joshna Chinnappa.
Having watched her father play since she was a toddler, Joshna says she had taken to squash like fish to water. “I also had a choice of playing tennis or badminton, but I stuck to squash because I began loving the sport,” said the national women’s champion and currently a top 20 player in the world. Like those who have nothing to do with cricket, Joshna too is envious of the way cricket and cricketers garner so much space in the media and other activities of public interest. But she says that it has not affected the growth of other sports in the country nor the progress of such sportspersons. “Look at Saina Nehwal, wrestler Yogeshwar and other achievers in various sports. They are getting recognition even in the Olympics,” Joshna says. But yes, the champion player would be happy if there was proportionate rise in the coverage of such achievements in the newspapers.Changing scene
Joshna talks of a talent in her own sport, Mahesh Mangaonkar, a youngster from Mumbai who recently won a PSA tour event (akin to winning a professional tournament in say tennis or badminton) but which got very little publicity. “It was a significant win and deserved more,” she said. But then, Joshna admits that unlike 10 or 15 years ago, when squash hardly found mention, things have changed vastly. “We have three players (Dipika Pallikal, Saurav Ghosal and myself) in India who are in the top 20 in the world rankings and our players have been regularly making an impact in various international tournaments,” she says, adding that it has ensured a certain visibility for squash now. Recognition too has been coming, stating that she received the Arjuna award last year.
What has heartened her is the increasing number of juniors taking to the sport and for this, she acknowledges the presence of the Indian Squash Academy in Chennai as one prime reason. “For two years now, there has been an overwhelming response for the junior national championship. This is a good sign,” she says. “There is much more accessibility to the courts now and this helps in maintaining consistency in performances.”
Looking back, Joshna does not regret one bit choosing squash for a career. “I like the sport. I enjoy playing it and my hard work is also paying me well. I am sure this must be true of every sport and sportsperson,” she says. Like many other squash players in the world, Joshna too keenly looks forward to seeing the sport in the Olympics!