Pallikal to spearhead Indian challenge in U-21 World Squash

Chennai: Dipika Pallikal will spearhead the Indian challenge in the inaugural World Squash Federation`s biennial Under-21 World Cup Chennai Open to be held at the Express Avenue Mall here from February 1 to 5.

Pallikal, the women`s world number 15, is the highest-ranked Indian player in the event. Making up the hosts` squad are 17-year-old Asian Junior U-19 champion Anaka Alankamony, Ravi Dixit, Ramit Tandon and Karan Malik.

Following the highly successful format of the biennial WSF World Cup, the under-21 Chennai event will feature mixed teams of two men and one woman.

Addressing a press conference here, Srivatsan Subramaniam, Secretary General of SRFI, said, "Eight countries including France, Germany, Australia, Hong Kong and Malaysia are competing in the event, which is taken to the masses for the second time by hosting it in a `Mall`.

"For the first time, the show court will have a glass floor. The anti-slip floor will have LED lights below, giving a different feel to the court. The new innovation will be showcased to Hein Verbruggen, President Sports Accord and a IOC Member, who will witness the semifinal and final," he said.

He said there would be video on demand facility and live web streaming of this event available online provided by the Sports Mechanics for all the matches.

"We are looking for mobile streaming of all matches too," Srivatsan said.

Egypt`s formidable squad includes two reigning world junior champions Marwan El Shorbagy and Nour El Tayeb -- ranked 41 and 20 respectively in the world and both still aged 18, in addition to 20-year-old world number 42 Karim Abdel Gawad, 18-year-old Mohamed Abouelghar and 16-year-old former world junior champion Nour El Sherbini, currently the world number 28.

England is seeded second and would be a possible threat to the hopes of Egypt in the final. The second seeds are pinning their hopes on a squad led by 19-year-old Charles Sharpes, ranked 96 in the world, and 17-year-old European junior champion Emily Whitlock, the world number 33.

The preliminary round-robin stage will take place in two pools of four teams each, followed by semifinals on February 4 and the final next day. All matches would be best-of-five format and two men and one woman will represent their respective countries.

G A Rajkumar, Additional Chief Secretary to the Government of Tamil Nadu, announced that this event would be sponsored by the Government at a cost of Rs One crore and 50
per cent of it has already been handed over to the organisers.

"Chief Minister J Jayalalitha has set plans to make Tamil Nadu as the sports capital of India," he said.

Meanwhile, World Squash Federation President N Ramachandran insisted that his body has not left any stone unturned in making squash as a medal sport in 2020 Olympics.

"The sport is one of the short listed disciplines by the Olympic Commission. All we require is just two courts to have the matches conducted for 32 each of men and women players and the cost of holding the event is much less compared to events that are already in the Olympics," he said.

"After the very successful biennial WSF World Cup last year, it is now great to welcome the debuting of WSF Under-21 World Cup in intervening years," said WSF CEO Andrew Shelley.

"It will provide a superb world level mixed team opportunity for top juniors and players who have recently left the under 19 age band. It is sure to grow as nations see how well it will be hosted in Chennai and start to allocate budgets to take their places too."

Following are the Groupings: Pool line-ups (with seedings in brackets):

• Pool A: (1) Egypt, (4) India, (5) Australia, (8) Germany

• Pool B: (2) England, (3) France, (6) Hong Kong, (7) Malaysia.


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