New Delhi: In a violation of the competition rule, a controversial squash singles draw could lead to an "unfortunate" quarterfinal face-off between India's 'golden girls' Dipika Pallikal and Joshana Chinappa at the Incheon Asian Games.
As per the tournament rule, two players belonging to the same country cannot be drawn in the same half. A similar situation had also arisen during the 2006 Doha Games where Saurav Ghosal beat compatriot Ritwik Bhattacharya to win an assured bronze, which led to allegations of rigging in the draw.
"It (draw) is unfortunate but it is what it is. You don't want to play your teammate so early in the competition. We would have had shot at two medals had we were separated in the draw but even then it wasn't a sure shot thing," Chinappa, who combined with Pallikal to win a historic gold at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in August, told PTI today.
In the September 19-October 4 Games, 3/4 seed Pallikal is drawn to play her 5/8 seeded teammate Chinappa in the second round, which happens to be the quarterfinals. In this scenario, India will be assured of at least a bronze for reaching the semifinals. But it could have bettered its tally had either of the player reached the semis from the other half in the draw of 32.
"And by the way, we have our first round matches to win before we face each other," the world No.21 Chinappa added.
According to the technical handbook for the Games, the squash competition shall be conducted in accordance with the World Squash Federation (WSF) rules and regulations which state "optimum separation of players of the same nationality to be used e.G. Drawn in different halves of the draw and, if more than two competitors from the same nation, different quarters. Where players are drawn into the same section of a draw they shall be kept apart as far as possible".
Two Hong Kong players Annie Au (3/4 seed) and Joey Chan (5/8) also find themselves in the same half of the draw.
Ghosal, who won back-to-back bronze in the last two editions, is the top seed this time. Asked whether the women's draw reminds him of Doha, the Asia number one said: "It does remind me of Doha but it is a different category. It (having two Indians in the same half) is like a double-edged sword really. Either you get one medal by putting two from the same country in one half or separating them which could lead to no medals at all."
Interestingly, India's N Ramachandran is the current WSF president and patron of the Asian Squash Federation (ASF). The Tamil strongman is also heading the Indian Olympic Association.
Pakistani male players Nasir Iqbal and Farhan Mehboob are in the top half of the draw. Ghosal is expected to play Iqbal in the quarters. The world No.16 from Kolkata feels it is his best chance of winning a famous gold for his country.
India had won a bronze each in team events and it is expected to better its performance at Incheon.