Kabaddi Masters Dubai 2018: After missing out on Asian Championship, Monu Goyat looks to make a mark for India
Having created history in the Pro Kabaddi League, Haryana Steelers' latest recruit Monu Goyat is on the cusp of making his first international appearance for India. The Kabaddi Masters tournament in Dubai is set to pit some of the top teams like India, Iran, Pakistan, South Korea, Kenya and Argentina against each other.
India coach Srinivas Reddy has already announced his intention of treating this tournament as a preparatory step for the Asian Games in August. This affords him a chance to test the waters with new players like Monu, who have not played for the country before.
While he may not have played for India as of yet, Monu Goyat has made a name for himself in the domestic circuit last season. Having played for the Patna Pirates in the PKL, Monu set himself apart as one of the top raiders in the league, with 202 points. In fact, he was only behind his fellow Pirates raider Pardeep Narwal, Bengaluru Bulls' Rohit Kumar and Tamil Thalaivas' Ajay Thakur in terms of the number of raid points scored.
This, along with supreme performances in the National Kabaddi Championship and the Federation Cup, meant that Monu set new records at the Pro Kabaddi League season 6 auctions last month, as the Haryana Steelers snapped him up for Rs 1.51 crores.
In fact, this sum made Monu the highest paid non-cricket Indian athlete in any domestic league, surpassing national football team captain Sunil Chhetri, who bags Rs 1.5 crore at Bengaluru FC.
"It’s a great thing that people are willing to spend such stupendous amounts on kabaddi players. It’s only been about four years that we have started to see an upsurge in kabaddi. Football has been played professionally in India for so many years," Monu said to Sportskeeda.
He further went on to outline the fact that such large sums spent on the sport are bound to garner more eyeballs globally, something that could help push the sport of kabaddi to the Olympics someday.
"We ultimately want this sport to be played in the Olympics. The more we play at this top level, the more people will be interested in the sport. Recently a lot of other countries have also started to show an interest in kabaddi, which can only help the sport grow," he said.
A golden opportunity missed
Despite his top-draw performance in the Pro Kabaddi League last season, Monu had to face the disappointment of not making the Indian national team squad for the Asian Kabaddi Championship in Iran last year.
India are always seen as one of the favourites to win any tournament at the international arena, but since the 2017 edition of the Asian Kabaddi Championship was being played in Iran, the hosts were touted to take the title. Pakistan sprung a surprise as they made it to the final, alongside India, before the Men in Blue eventually triumphed.
While Monu had missed out on making the squad for the Asian Kabaddi Championship, it was not for the lack of form that he did not get the call-up from the Indian coaches.
"There was a chance of me making the India squad after last season’s PKL, when the boys went for the Asian Kabaddi Championship in Iran. However, due to the lack of some documents, the coaches could not select me," said Monu. "Basically, I did not have my passport back then. Later, I applied for my passport, and got it after the Nationals and the Fed Cup."
Despite missing out on his first India call-up last year, Monu pushed on, with the Asian Games firmly in his sight.
"It was never a question of the lack of form for me, last year. Even ahead of the Asian Championship, I knew that I could make it. Not having a passport obviously complicated things for me though," said Monu.
"Hence, I pushed forward with my performances on the domestic circuit. Once I got my passport after the Fed Cup, I knew that there was no reason why I could not make it to the national team for the Kabaddi Masters or the Asian Games," he continued.
His performances in both the National Championship last year, and in the Fed Cup in February helped Services finish as runners-up and champions of the respective tournaments. Hence, the 25-year-old was doubly motivated to continue his performances even at the Nationals and the Fed Cup.
"It’s not just about the performance in the Pro Kabaddi League. The team coaches and managers, and even the PKL teams continuously monitor our performances (in the other tournaments as well), be it in the PKL, or the National Championship or the Federation Cup," he said.
A possible debut against Pakistan
An India vs Pakistan encounter is one of its kind. Be it in cricket, hockey or even kabaddi. While the political relations between the two countries have hardly been on the positive side since their independence in 1947, clashes on the sporting arena have always made for a mouth-watering affair.
Top Indian athletes (former and current) Kapil Dev and Sachin Tendulkar (cricket), and Sunil Chhetri (football) had made their respective international debuts against Pakistan, and have gone on to attain legendary status in their respective sports for the country.
Monu, who himself is on the cusp of making a memorable debut against Pakistan, is humbled by the magnitude of the occasion. "These are some really top players, who have started off their international careers against Pakistan. An India vs Pakistan match is not only followed in these two countries. It is a mega event that is watched by the people of other countries as well," he said.
"Obviously, we expect a tough fight from Pakistan in the first game. So we are also going to enter the mat with all our plans to back up our gameplay. But on a personal level, it would be a moment of great joy, if I can make my international debut against Pakistan," Monu continued.
A problem of plenty for India
India have taken a huge raiding contingent in their squad this time around. In fact, there are seven players who are considered as top raiders in the country -- Monu, Deepak Niwas Hooda, Pardeep Narwal, Rishank Devadiga, Rahul Chaudhari, Ajay Thakur and Manjeet Chhillar.
However, despite being one of the best raiders in PKL, Monu will be looking to take in as much experience as possible from the senior players like Ajay, Manjeet, Deepak or Rahul.
"Kabaddi Masters will be my first international tournament. So I will be looking to pick up as much experience from my teammates as possible," he said.
One mouth-watering prospect for the Indian fans is that of Monu and Pardeep raiding in tandem, something they did very successfully for Patna Pirates last season. However, with a number of other top raiders in the squad, that sight may be a bit rarer.
"Pardeep and I combined very well last season. But its different in the national team now. We are not the only top raiders in the side. It all depends on what tactic the team decides to use. It's not necessary that both Pardeep and I have to play together," said Monu. "You can't always play in one team. Every player has to adjust their own games according to the teammates around him, and the opponents he is facing."
Monu may have gotten a rather late inclusion in the national team squad, but it has come just at the right time when the experts and critics have started to take a note of the young raider's capabilities.
It now remains to be seen whether the 25-year-old can use this opportunity as a launchpad in his international careers as well, much like how his performances for the Patna Pirates and Services propelled him to fame on the domestic circuit.