Tudu’s journey: Indian village to rugby pitches of England
Inevitably he has been dubbed Scrumdog Millionaire, but up and coming rugby star Sailen Tudu actually prefers the nickname The Beast from the East as a testament to his skills on the sporting field.other Updated: May 21, 2010 23:51 IST
Inevitably he has been dubbed Scrumdog Millionaire, but up and coming rugby star Sailen Tudu actually prefers the nickname The Beast from the East as a testament to his skills on the sporting field.
Tudu, 20, was spotted playing rugby barefoot on wasteland in Calcutta and has won a scholarship to a college in Gloucestershire renowned for its sporting prowess. Guided by the former England captain Phil Vickery, Tudu has represented India and is aiming for a professional career in Europe.
Tudu, who touched a rugby ball for the first time just five years ago, today described his introduction to the game.
“I first watched these kids play touch rugby with cones on wasteland and I was amazed,” he said.
“They asked me to join in and I played in my bare feet for a few months. I loved the speed and thrill of the game. Now I'm playing alongside some of the finest sportsmen in Europe. It's incredible. I'm so lucky.
“I came from a tribal village in the mountains with no running water or electricity, no books, where rugby is unheard of. The people there are some of the poorest in India.”
Tudu, who plays on the wing or at fullback, moved to Calcutta when his father started a job as a police officer there.
Within weeks of starting to play rugby he was spotted by Paul Walsh, a former diplomat from the British high commission, who had formed a rugby team of street children called the Jungle Crows.
Tudu quickly became the team's star player, quit school to play in several minor Indian competitions, and was selected to play for the national under-19 side.
In 2007 Walsh flew Tudu to England, where he met Vickery, who helped the player win a scholarship to study for a diploma in sport, focusing on rugby, at Hartpury College. Tudu also plays for the Gloucestershire side Longlevens RFC.
Vickery said: "I have been fortunate to achieve some awesome things in rugby but what Tudu has achieved is incredible. I'm passionate about grassroots rugby and his story takes you back to the roots of the game. It's a fantastic story."
Vickery's business partner Richard Yorke, who looks after Tudu at weekends, added: “He’s a great person. You see films like Slumdog Millionaire and I think that Sailen has achieved more than that. He's the Scrumdog Millionaire."
Tudu's father, Sudhir Chandra Tudu, said: "Sailen loved sport, and I always encouraged him to do what he liked. But rugby? He didn't even know that such a game existed."