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Fortune without fame

Call it an aberration or what you please, while kabaddi cries for attention in its country of birth, the players have little to complain about, barring the lack of publicity in this cricket-driven nation.

india Updated: Jul 17, 2011 01:10 IST
Robin Bose

Call it an aberration or what you please, while kabaddi cries for attention in its country of birth, the players have little to complain about, barring the lack of publicity in this cricket-driven nation.

"Manpreet Singh, man-of-the-tournament and captain of the Hyderabad Horses, champions of the inaugural Kabaddi Premier League, has 19 international medals adorning his mantelpiece, but the strapping player from Punjab laments the step-motherly treatment the sport receives. "Itne medals hain ki ek bacche ko pehna doh to woh baith jaaye, phir bhi, kitne log mujhe jaante hain? (If a child were to wear the medals, he would droop. Despite this, how many people recognise me)," he said with a rustic drawl.

Manpreet may not have got popular recognition, but his achievements were taken note of where it mattered. Employed with the Oil and Natural Gas Commission since 2004, the 34-year-old has led his team to several national titles and his current package exceeds a lakh of rupees.

There is no dearth of jobs for quality players," he said, fidgeting with his latest acquisition — an iPhone4, and had Rakesh Kumar and Naveen Kumar nodding in unison.

Rakesh, who captained India to gold at the Guangzhou Asian Games and leads the Haridwar Hunters, was emphatic. "The KPL is a boon for upcoming players. Not only has it given them the chance to interact with senior players, it is the roadmap to the India camp," said the KPL’s best all-rounder, who turns out for the Railways.

Pointing to the observers from the Services, Naveen, serving with the Navy, felt the KPL could develop as the ideal platform for bright talent to be snapped up. "Top government departments are always on the lookout for good players," said the Delhi Dashers’ skipper.

Though happy with the introduction of the synthetic surface, the trio rued the frenetic pace during the nine-day event. "Reducing the number of players from 12 to 10 means the chances of picking up injuries go up manifold. With physical trainers and physiotherapists being alien terms, we have to make do with ice. Even pain killers can't be administered, lest a player is caught for doping," said Manpreet.

Despite their cheerful demeanour, the remorse within made an appearance.

Both Manpreet and Naveen, players-of-the tournament at the Busan and Doha Asian Games respectively, lost out on an Arjuna Award, allegedly to lesser-gifted players. Rakesh, who is in contention this year, courtesy his exploits in Guangzhou, gave a shudder. "I don't know what I’ll do if I meet the same fate," he said.

Perhaps, an option could be to renounce the India jersey like Manpreet and Naveen.