Pro Kabaddi League 2017 Season 5: The incredible tale of Gujarat's Sachin Tawar, the 18-year-old who has taken the league by storm
One of the four new teams part of the new Pro Kabaddi Season 5, the Gujarat Fortunegiants have defied the odds and have got off to a flying start in the first three weeks of the three-month long competition. After the auctions in May, they did not boast of star names like the other sides, but so far this season, they are unbeaten in their last six games and are comfortably perched on top of the Zone A points table after a heroic home leg that saw them clinch five straight wins.
The league phase is still in its early stages but already, the Fortunegiants have laid down the marker. Their strength lies in their balanced lineup, which has an ironclad defense and a lethal, energetic attack. On the corners, Iranian imports Fazel Atrachali and Abozar Mighani have been an intimidating presence, with the latter impressing with his aggression and vice-like ankle holds.
In the covers, young guns Parvesh Bhainswal and Sunil Kumar have gone from strength to strength, supporting their corners with well-timed dashes and powerful body blocks. Their youthful attack does not boast of star names like Pardeep Narwal or Anup Kumar, but it has proved to be quite an effective, chiefly in thanks to a certain 18-year-old named Sachin Tawar, who has terrorized opposition defenses like no one else and taken the league by storm.
Quite remarkably, Sachin is the youngest player in this edition of the PKL, which makes his recent run even more incredible. In the nine games he has featured in so far, he has amassed a whopping 60 points, which puts him in fourth place on the charts, just behind illustrious names such as Pardeep, Rohit Kumar and Rahul Chaudhari.
He was bought for Rs 36 lakhs at the player auction and already, he has started repaying the faith that was placed in him with some blockbuster performances. His journey to this stage has been quite a fascinating one too, and began in Badbar, a village in the Jhunjhunu district in Rajasthan.
"It all began due to my elder brother," said Sachin in an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda. Hailing from an agricultural family, he was introduced to the sport by his brother, who is a national-level player himself and works as a para-military personnel in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
He was just 12 when he first stepped on to the kabaddi ground. "I instantly fell in love with the game and since then, I dreamed of becoming a professional kabaddi player," he reveals. The youngster has always been a raider since his younger days, and when asked why he chose to be one, he simply replies, "I started raiding just because my brother asked me to!"
From there, it was sheer hard work and determination that helped him move closer to his goal. A camper at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) facility in Gandhinagar, he made his way past over 250 candidates to clear the trials and has been training at the campus for the last two years.
His idol is none other than the legendary Rakesh Kumar, a three-time Asian Games gold medalist for the nation and like his role model, Sachin led India to victory at the continental level - the Junior Asian Championship in 2016. And now thrust on to the biggest stage of them all, the 18-year-old has thrived and looked quite the part, displaying some incredible moves on the mat.
So what sets him apart from the others? "Sachin jo hai, woh dil se khelta hai," (Sachin plays with all his heart) explains Gujarat coach Manpreet Singh. "It's his first time in this league and so, he has been able to play without any fear," he said.
Manpreet, in an earlier interview with Sportskeeda, had already billed Sachin as one player to watch out for and now, it is easy to understand why. "He has all the skills required to be a good raider," his coach reveals. "He is fully fit, highly athletic and being so young, he operates at a great speed. Along with that, he has a great height and flexibility, which make him so dangerous for defenders."
Along with his physical attributes, another key aspect of his game is uncanny calmness in pressure situations. A testament to this are his 22 do-or-die raid points, the highest in the league so far, which show how he keeps his cool in crunch moments and can force opposing defenses into committing errors.
"Since he is new, opposition teams are yet to read him well and as a result, they are caught off guard by him," Manpreet says. But what will happen later in the tournament?
The coach responds, "He is improving day-by-day and with every match. I am certain that his performances will only get better and even if defenders do study his game, they will still not be able to stop him."
It has been quite an incredible journey for the youngest player in the league and he has often left defenders and fans spellbound with his array of tricks. Here's hoping he continues to provide moments of magic and take his team to the trophy in their first-ever season!