Pro Kabaddi League 2017 Season 5: From rugby in Australia to kabaddi in India, the story of Bengal Warriors' Amaresh Mondal
Kabaddi is embarking on a new high with the biggest instalment of the Pro Kabaddi League set to be staged from the 28th of July. The rise of India's homegrown sport has been a success story in itself but parallel to the growth of the game has been the progress of the players associated with it as well. It has touched the lives of unknown entities and transformed them into sports stars amongst the youth of the nation.
Pro Kabaddi then by itself has been an incubator of talent, nurturing the power houses of the sport and giving them a global platform to showcase their skills and thus prove their worth.
Ahead of the fifth season of PKL, the organisers went a step ahead in this regard by introducing the New Young Players Category at the player auctions held in May. Post a meticulous and stringent process of selection, a certain amount of young players aged between 18-22 made the cut to the auctions, wherein they were picked up by the 12 franchises and thus given the all important opportunity to make their mark in the sport while playing alongside the best in the business.
One such young gun who stood out is Amaresh Mondal who was roped in by the Bengal Warriors at the auction. Most players dedicated themselves solely to the sport of kabaddi with hopes and aspirations of making it big one day, but with Amaresh, the story took a slight curve.
Coming from a small town called Bongaon located in West Bengal on the periphery of the Indo-Bangladesh border, Amaresh as a child did not even see his father's face after his birth. He was brought up by his mother and his maternal grandparents, aunts who supported him all along his journey till date.
Interest in sports was a key constant in his life, and this was noticed by one his brothers back in his village who used to ply his trade for a rugby team in Australia. It was upon his advice, that at the tender age of 16 years, Amaresh, a decent rugby player himself also decided to travel Down Under to follow in the footsteps of his cousin.
"It was not easy to be quite honest. I had mixed feelings while going, a bit of nervousness combined with a hint of confidence in my own abilities. But when I finally landed there and saw all the international rugby recruits go about their business, I looked at it as a golden opportunity to hone my skills and improve upon my weaknesses in their presence and take a leaf out of their experience."
So despite such a successful and enriching journey, what made Amaresh switch to the desi sport of kabaddi? "I had just passed my tenth grade after coming back to India and it was my school master who insisted that I play both the sports, rugby and kabaddi, and pursue the one where I make the cut. Hence, I decided to give it a shot."
His talent was soon duly noticed by officials appointed by PKL to scout kabaddi talent in the country as a part of the NYP program. He passed the various levels that were required of him and finally made it to the final selection camps held in Gandhinagar and later Mumbai. How much did rugby help then one would question? "Rugby like kabaddi is an intense sport which requires not just skills and technique but a paramount amount of fitness, so that had a relay effect on my style of play in kabaddi as well. The way I see it, both the sports have a lot of similarities the only major difference being the size of the field."
So having tread across the difficult course, Amaresh is the only Bengali player to feature in the Warriors team and it is not just him by the team as well who are happy to have the local player in their ranks. "I always wanted to represent my state and Bengal Warriors gave me that chance so I feel nothing but privileged."
Giving us the team's perspective about the same, manager Raees Ahmed says, "We always wanted to have a local player in our ranks and hence we went out of our way to secure Amaresh's services at the auctions. He sort of lends a native identity to the team and his selection will resonate with the teams' fans as well."
Since the past one month, Amaresh has been training alongside some of the best players in the likes of Surjeet, Ran Singh amongst others; and he says that "More than anything else, I feel privileged that I getting to learn from such experienced players. It has been enriching journey and I'm looking forward to the season now. "
Rakesh Kumar inspires the young lad when it comes to the sport, and much like his idol, Amaresh possesses all-round abilities, for he is a natural right cover defender but enjoys raiding if given a chance. Coach KK Jagadeesh has enough faith in Amaresh and he is of the opinion that, "It is a long season this time around, so I definitely see him as a player in the starting seven at one point or the other during the course of the tournament. Given his rugby background, I feel that Amaresh will make a key difference when it comes to the defence for that is where he can channelise his aggression and brute strength."
The 20-year-old in just at the beginning juncture of what seems to be a long and successful career in the sport but nonetheless he exuded a lot of optimism when asked about the teams' title chances. "We have a pretty balanced squad, with the right mix of experience and youth, hence it is a match winning team if you look at us! We will definitely lay our hands on the trophy," said Mondal.
Thus, one can watch this rugby player turned kabaddi all-rounder in action when the Pro Kabaddi extravaganza commences on the 28th of July!