2016 Kabaddi World Cup: Was Maharashtra ignored or was the team selection based on merit?
With just three days from now, sports fans in India will go gaga over the Kabaddi World Cup but what still remains a mystery is the team selection when it comes to India, for not a single player from Maharashtra made the cut in the final squad of 14 players selected to represent the nation in its title defense.
This is despite the fact that 6 players out of the 26 probables who made it to the national camp at Gandhinagar for the World Cup hailed from the Western state of India, including the likes of Pro Kabaddi stars such as Rishank Devadiga, Vishal Mane, Kashiling Adake, Sachin Shingade, Nilesh Shinde and Girish Ernak.
This comes as a setback for a state that has nurtured the home-grown sport since its very inception; has Kabaddi as its official state game and produces the largest number of professional players from the four regions of Mumbai, Mumbai Metropolitan, Sangli and Ratnagiri.
State board to be blamed?
While, some attribute this development to a poorly managed state association in the Maharashtra State Kabaddi Association (MSKA), one which is controlled by a powerful lobby from the Marathwada region wherein the administrators have a growing apathy towards the sport which works to the disadvantage of players.
In a quote to Mid-day, former Maharashtra player and Arjuna awardee, Raju Bhavsar also pointed in the same direction, hinting at the lop-sided functioning of the association as the reason for this disappointment, he said, "Taking into consideration the status of Maharashtra, at least one player should have been selected. I thought Kashiling Adake would find a place. If you look at the other players, almost all are from Haryana. Have our standards dipped, or has our (MSKA) relationship with the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India turned sour?"
The other side of this story, a suspicion of corruption in the state body after Kishor Patil from Aurangabad took over from Ajit Pawar as the President of the association. Since his appointment, the body comprises of members predominantly from Latur, Parbhani, Usmanabad and Nanded.
The power holders in the committee have a paltry 3-4 kabaddi clubs in their district while Mumbai with over 400 kabaddi clubs finds almost no representation. To add to this woe, there is not an inch of remorse about Maharashtra players' exclusion on Patil which is evident by the fact that he has gone ahead and become the manager of the national side at the World Cup.
However, another judgment of error can be attributed to the selectors from the ruling body of sports in India, namely the AKFI (Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India) for overlooking the likes of the Maharashtra players.
For instance, most experts were of the opinion that star raider Kashiling Adake and the defensive wall Vishal Mane would surely be included in the final line-up since they were a part of the Indian squad that won the gold medal at the South Asian Games earlier this year. Moreover, another exclusion was that of Rishank Devadiga, a player who has shined for U Mumba with 320 points in 59 matches during the course of the league.
Lastly, Nilesh Shinde, the skipper of the Bengal Warriors who was also was at the wrong end of the selectors, he was quoted as saying to Mid-day, "I am 35 now. If I was selected it would have been a big achievement for me, but that didn't happen."
Selection based on merit or is it?
However, in an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, Deviprasad Chaurasia, CEO of the Kabaddi Federation was quick to retort that, "There is nothing like the fact that the Maharashtra players were ignored, the selection was strictly based on merit."
In such a scenario, one would question the inclusion of Jasvir Singh and Dharmaraj Cheralathan, veterans of the sport in lieu of the youth and exuberance of Rishank Devadiga and Vishal Mane. Also, there would be a cloud of uncertainty over the selection of Ajay Thakur who had a poor last season in the Pro Kabaddi League and was chosen ahead of Sangli's Kashiling Adake, who has proven himself to be a match-winner on quite a few occasions.
In India's last outing at the World Cup in 2007, Maharashtra's players had played a key role in their run to the title with Mumbai lad Pankaj Shirsat leading the side which also included to other state players namely Dinesh Kumar and Gaurav Shetty.Thus, whether the state association is to be blamed, or it’s the national selectors who are answerable, remains an unsolved mystery at the start of the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup.