Chennai: When Egyptian coach Achraf Karargui left India just before the Commonwealth Games in April, it created a lot of ripples in the squash fraternity. He didn’t leave quietly like many other foreign coaches who had contracts with the Sports Authority of India. As a parting shot, Karargui slammed the Squash Rackets Federation of India for its “unprofessional attitude.”
Squash ace Dipika Pallikal on Tuesday said the Egyptian’s acrimonious exit was a big blow to the Indian team. “Achraf genuinely cared about all the players. He ensured that a player was in the right frame of mind on and off the court. We could easily relate to him. At the same time, he would push and make us do things to improve our game,” she added.
Karargui made an immediate impact after replacing Malaysian Major S. Maniam who had been with Indian squash for more than a decade. “Having Achraf was like a whiff of fresh air. The credit should go to him for whatever we achieved in the last couple of years. He made a big impact in a short time. Unfortunately, he had to leave before the CWG,” Dipika added.
India’s long-time ‘national coach’ Cyrus Poncha and former player Bhuvneshwari Kumari are part of the Asian Games contingent, but Dipika doesn’t consider them as coaches. “We are in desperate need of a coach. Cyrus has been with the national team for many years. But when it comes to coaching during matches, players are used to looking after each other. Cyrus only does a managerial role liaising with the federation and organisers.”
Dipika said she had stopped training under Cyrus long ago. “Not just me, Saurav Ghosal hasn’t trained with him for many years. Other players such as Mahesh Mangaonkar and Ramit are on their own and Sunayna Kuruvilla (the third member of the women’s team) is being trained by Balamurugan,” she said.
Dipika is one of the top four seeds at Jakarta. “We would have liked to have a coach for the Asiad. But we have to play with what we have got,” she said.
Recently, the SRFI refused to accept Dipika’s local coach A. Parthiban for government’s cash incentive. Dipika said it was an “unnecessary issue” created by the federation.