For Dipika Pallikal Karthik, playing the nationals was always a big deal. However, what she did not approve of was of the pay disparity that existed between men and women squash players. While the men’s national champion would pocket a cool Rs 1.2 lakh, the women's champion would walk away with only Rs 50,000.

However, Pallikal knew it was time to take a stand and fight for equality in a field where the men always had the upper hand. That is usually the scenario across all mediums with women trying to fight it out and show their mettle.

And victory was sweet for Pallikal in the end. After she last played the nationals in 2011, where she won the title, Pallikal finally took part again this year and won to take her second crown. She only took part after the Squash Rackets Federation of India had an equal prize money for both women and men champions.

“Victory was definitely sweeter. I was more than happy to play the event and more of a relief that they finally agreed on equal pay and it definitely made the victory sweeter. I was more than glad to come back and play the nationals after a period of five years,” Pallikal told

Can't avoid cricket

Talking during a promotional event for leading sports brand adidas, Pallikal spoke about cricket, a game she does not like even though she is married to cricketer Dinesh Karthik. “I never really enjoyed watching it and whenever I switched on the TV there was a Test match going on. So probably that is why. And now with Dinesh I have started watching a lot of cricket,” she said.

Pallikal's mother Susan Itticheria has represented the Indian cricket team in seven Test matches and two One-Day Internationals. Itticheria played for the Tamil Nadu women’s team in the national circuit and was a medium-pace bowler. But, then, that too never made her fall in love with the game. However, with two cricketers in the house, can she really avoid not liking it anymore?

“I am pretty sure they do speak about cricket, but I don’t think my mom and Dinesh go into technical terms. We all do speak about our sports and that is about it. See the thing is that I only watch cricket when Dinesh plays and other than that I don’t really watch a lot of cricket. I am hoping that Dinesh gets into all forms of cricket so that I can also watch all forms of the game,” said Pallikal.

But the 25-year-old did have a taste of the sport during the Tamil Nadu Premier League final, where Karthik's team Albert TUTI Patriots won the trophy by beating Chepauk Super Gillies. “It is nice actually. I hardly watched him play live so I think it was nice to watch him play and the other boys, who are all friends,” said Pallikal.

Aiming for the top 10

Talking about her own sport, Pallikal praised her compatriot Joshna Chinappa, who broke into the top 10 in the latest rankings. “I think it is great and I am really happy for her. She had a really dangerous injury two or three years back and I am very happy and proud of her. I think these things are really good for Indian squash and they are making girls believe that we can do really really well. I hope we both can continue our good run and be in the top 10 one day,” Pallikal said.

About her own form, Pallikal said she was happy with her run till date. “I am happy with the way I am playing. It is about converting those close losses into wins and hopefully I can do that in the coming matches,” said Pallikal.

With the heroics of PV Sindhu, Sakshi Malik and Dipa Karmakar fresh in the minds of many during the Rio Olympics, Pallikal said it was nice to see women breaking barriers and taking up sports professionally. “I think it was really nice to see these girls do so well. It was a memorable event. PV Sindhu, Sakshi Malik did really well and though Dipa did not win a medal, she did really well given her background and way she has trained back home. I guess it is an eye opener for a lot of good things for women’s sport in the country,” said Pallikal.

Flip-side of being a celebrity

Talking about the side-effects of social media and the recent rise of online trolling against sports personalities and their spouses, Pallikal said that it is an issue that needs to addressed. “I have always stood up for what is right and have always been vocal about what I think is right compared to what other people think. I just wanted to put across the point that it is important that I stand up for my parents and Dinesh. I will never shy away from doing it,” said Pallikal, who made her point clear in December last year when she slammed a website that called her husband unattractive.

However, given that celebrities like Mayanti Langer, who is cricketer Stuart Binny’s wife, or other celebrities who are often seen with sports people from various fields getting trolled for unwarranted reasons, Pallikal said that such issues need to be ignored till it is possible.

“For me and Dinesh, we both shut out. Everyone just witnesses what happens on the field and what the results are, that is about it. If I l lose a match everyone is talking about it, but no one really knows that I have lost to a world No. 5 or a really close set. We don’t give much importance to such things. We both know that we are working really hard and doing it every day regardless of what people say online. We usually laugh it off. However, if it goes too far then I will really take it on,” said Pallikal.