It is a measure of the country's growth in squash that an Indian will lead the pack in the inaugural SDAT-WSF mixed team World Cup under-21 squash tournament from Feb. 1 to 5 here.

World No. 15 Dipika Pallikal is at a new high as far as rankings of an Indian in this sport are concerned. She is also the highest-ranked among the players of eight countries participating in this competition.

In addition to expanding its activities and throwing more thrust on developing the sport at the junior level, this new event is one more effort of the World Squash Federation (WSF) to showcase a world event in a new setting (being held partially on a portable court at a mall) and with the use of modern technology, all with the intention of consolidating its bid to get the sport included as a medal sport in the 2020 Olympics.

Addressing a press conference on Saturday, N. Ramachandran, WSF president said the World body was leaving no stone unturned in its overwhelming desire to get the sport accepted by the IOC. The Chennai event, he said, will witness matches on an all-glass court, with LED lights to highlight the court-markings. The court, to be placed in a strategic area at the mega Express Avenue Mall, is expected to attract shoppers and those whiling away time.

He also thanked the SDAT and Tamil Nadu government for keeping its sports-friendly outlook and coming forward in a big way to sponsor.

Earlier, the SRFI Secretary-General Srivatsan Subramaniam underlined the highlights of the seven-nation tournament. The initial matches, he said, would be played at the Indian Squash Academy courts and the final at the Mall.

Apart from India, the other participating nations are England, France, Germany, Egypt, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Australia.

The eight teams will be placed in two pools, with the top two advancing to the knockout phase. Three singles matches, including a women's singles, outline the format.

Special guest G.A. Rajkumar, additional chief secretary, Youth Welfare and Sports Development, while announcing a Rs. 1 crore sponsorship from the Government, said the gesture was in line with the Chief Minister's keenness to make Chennai the sports capital of India.

Sponsors

Apart from The Hindu (media partner), the co-sponsors include Malaysia Airlines, Courtyard by Marriott, Dunlop, Harrow, Sports Mechanics, Chennai Live, Shriram City Union Finance, Herbalife, Tourism Malaysia, Sportzpower, Sports-Locker, ASB Light Power and Advent Sports Management.