Two months is a long time in professional sports. Just ask Patna Pirates’ Manpreet Singh.
A virtual unknown before the third edition of the Pro Kabaddi League started in January, Manpreet captained Patna Pirates to their maiden title on Saturday, defeating overwhelming favourites U Mumba 31-28 in a tense final.
Having lost in the semifinals in the first two seasons, Manpreet’s calming influence over the team has been the secret of their transformation into champions this season.
Manpreet, playing in his first PKL season, certainly knows a thing or two about transformation. After all, the 36-year-old shed 47 kg in six months only so he could be a part of the third edition of PKL, which has an 85-kg weight limit. Manpreet used to weigh around 130 kg in August.
“In international kabaddi, the weight limit for players is 80 kg. My weight usually is around 100 kg. So, I’m used to shedding a lot of weight right before an international tournament so as to fit in the permissible limit. But after I fell out of Indian team contention a few years back, I started gaining a lot of weight. In fact, my weight had been just over the 130-kg mark for the last three years,” Manpreet told HT.
Manpreet was not part of any team in the first two editions of PKL playing only for his employer ONGC in tournaments which do not have a weight limit for players.
“My 10-year-old son, Sampreet, is the happiest person now that I am playing in PKL. Some months ago, he had bragged to his schoolmates that his father also was a kabaddi player only to be chided by them as to why I was not playing in PKL,” said Manpreet, who was approached by the Pirates in August even as the second season was going on.
That’s when Manpreet started working out, spending hours daily running at Sports Authority of India’s Sonipat centre.
Odd as it may sound, Manpreet’s obsession in the sport grew because of his love for bikes. When he was a youngster who had barely made his name on the circuit, his grandfather, Sardar Karnail Singh, had promised to buy him his favourite bike if he got picked to play for the country.
“Since then I started harbouring the dream of playing for India so that I could get a bike,” said Manpreet.
True to his word, when Manpreet returned to India after helping India win the 2000 Asian Championship in Sri Lanka, his grandfather gifted him a motorcycle which he still owns.