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Pro Kabaddi 2016 Season 4: Sukesh Hegde goes from being village boy to kabaddi superstar with multi-million tag

A story of sweat, character, hardship and inspiration.

Sukesh Hegde
Sukesh Hegde’s journey has been incredible and inspiring.

It has been a long ride from the dusty grounds of Kukkuje to the glitzy mats of the Pro Kabaddi League. The story of Sukesh Hegde is characteristic of the impact of the fledgling league. The transformation from struggling athletes to wealthy stars has been nothing short of mesmerizing. All in the matter of just three years.

Kukkuje is a sleepy little hamlet around 40 kilometers East of Udipi in Karnataka state. Sukesh was drawn to Kabaddi very early in his childhood. But the school in his village would not admit students to the team before they reached class V. The son of a driver, Sukesh was at school more for the joy of Kabaddi than any real desire for academic pursuit. But academic failure helped spur his growth as a kabaddi player. It is a curious mix of ingredients that helped his development as one of the best players in India.

Sukesh’s failure in his SSC examination and subsequently in the PUC exam, afforded him unplanned breaks from academics that helped him dedicate time to kabaddi. Sukesh broke into serious kabaddi when he was selected to play in the All India Inter-Universities competition during the first year of his college education. A good performance there opened new vistas.

He made his way to the bustling streets of Bengaluru, a far cry from the sleepy roads of Udipi when Vijaya Bank offered him a position. The lanky lad was only his second year of graduation, but his move to the city helped consolidate his kabaddi dreams. He turned from a relatively unrecognized player to a sought after star soon as he took the flight with Telugu Titans.  The story of this village boy who raided life with his spirit seeped in kabaddi and emerged victorious.

Being one of the premier raiders in the league, Sukesh inspires confidence in his team and fear in the hearts of his opponents. His agile raiding style and nimble footwork have attracted legions of fans. As we spoke about his journey, fans eager to shake hands with Sukesh or take a quick picture repeatedly interrupted us. Sukesh entertained them with his disarming smile and an apologetic glance in my direction.

Youngest of three siblings, Sukesh prefers to communicate in Kannada. But given the prevalence of Hindi across teams, uses his patient listening skills to hear and understand team plans.Sukesh had to sit out much of the early action after splitting his middle finger during his first raid of PKL season IV. The finger on his right hand is still swollen after it took nine stitches to mend the split.

Sukesh expects to be back in action tonight against the Patna Pirates. In a season where raiders have been blunted, it will be good to see Sukesh find the answers needed to deal with the emerging strategies centered on strong defense.

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