Pro Kabaddi League 2017 Season 5: How Gujarat's Sunil Kumar overcame huge family setbacks to star in the PKL
The Gujarat Fortunegiants had a debut to remember on Tuesday as they downed the Dabang Delhi at the Gachibowli Stadium in Hyderabad on their first ever outing in the Pro Kabaddi League. One of the four new teams in the fifth edition of the competition, the team from Gujarat put in a dominant performance to win 26-20 and could have been much more had they not put their foot off the pedal towards the end of the match.
They bet big on their defensive prowess, playing on the do-or-die raid and pouncing at the right moment. Manning the corners were two Iranian pillars, Fazel Atrachali and Abozar Mohajermighani, who picked up a combined total of six points and were in fine form. Both are seasoned veterans and have considerable international experience, and together in defense, they almost upset India in the final of the Kabaddi World Cup last year.
However, in their cover position, they had a fresh face in the form of 20-year-old Sunil Kumar. He had earlier been a part of the Patna Pirates lineup in Season 4, winning the Pro Kabaddi title, but did not get much time on the mat. Yesterday was his big bow on the big stage and boy did he shine!
He scored a total of two points only but was rock solid in defense, supporting his corners well and not giving away any room to the Delhi raiders, which included the mercurial Meraj Sheykh, who can be a real nightmare for cover defenders. While his performance on the mat was praiseworthy, his journey to the Pro Kabaddi mat is also truly incredible and inspirational.
Hailing from Bhainswal Kalan in the Sonepat district of Haryana, he had quite a carefree childhood, where he started playing kabaddi at the age of 13. The eldest son in his family, he would occasionally help out his father in their family farm and also honed his kabaddi skills, participating in local tournaments.
However, his life turned around all of a sudden, when his father passed away and he became the breadwinner of the family. It was an incredible jolt for the young man as he found himself at a crossroads between his family and kabaddi. And in the end, he chose both - as he tended to the family farm and pursued his love for kabaddi together, managing his time immaculately.
"It gets extremely hectic, every day I have to travel a lot as I have to be with my family. I try to practice as much as possible in my village itself," said the youngster when asked about his daily routine. "Time management is everything, that is what I have learnt," he adds.
With the backing of his family, he chose to continue his passion for kabaddi and even won two gold medals at the junior national level. He continues to balance his time and is philosophical when asked about how he manages to do so.
"Time flows fast. You have to make a lot of adjustments to realize your dreams," he said.
If his debut in Season 5 is anything to go by, he has a great future ahead of him. One can draw so much inspiration from his tale on the mat and off it, and here's hoping he can carry on his form and make his family proud at the biggest stage in the sport.