Rakesh Kumar: 10 things you need to know about him
One of the most experience campaigners still active, Rakesh Kumar was a bargain buy for the Telugu Titans at this season's auctions. They will hope he can inspire them to a title this time around. Here are a few lesser known facts about him:
1. Rakesh Kumar was born in Nizampur in the outskirts of Delhi. Nizampur has been called by some as the Kabaddi capital of India, due to the high popularity of the sport there. The village has produced around 100 national and international Kabaddi players. Apart from Rakesh, another famous player, Manjeet Chillar also hails from the same village.
2. Kumar started playing in 1997 in his school. His brother also started along with him. Kumar credits his father for always being supportive in this regard. He had a great beginning and was playing school nationals within a year. Continuing the steady rise, Kumar broke into the national team in 2003.
3. Apart from Kabaddi, Kumar is also a Chief Ticket Inspector with the Northern Railway. He has the Railways job since 2004. Incidentally, many think of Kumar's "Lion Jump" being as iconic a signature move as MS Dhoni's "Helicopter Shot". Well, now we know another similarity between the Kabaddi and cricket legends!
4. Rakesh Kumar has been part of two World Cup and three Asian Games winning teams. He won gold at the World Cups in 2004 and 2007, and also in the 2006 Doha, 2010 Guangzhou and 2014 Incheon Asian Games. In fact, Kumar was the vice-captain of the team that lifted the Cup in 2007.
5. Rakesh Kumar remains one of the few Kabaddi players to have won the Arjuna Award, the country's highest sporting honour. He was honoured for his contributions to the game in 2011.
6. Kumar had the honour of being the most expensive player in the first auction of the Pro Kabaddi League. With 5 out of 8 teams vying for the experienced campaigner, he was snapped by Patna Pirates for 12.8 lakhs.
7. Kumar is well-known as a gritty player with a never-say-die attitude. One particular incident that attests to this is the 2010 final of the Asian Games against Iran. In the final, Rakesh's head collided with a teammate. Both players were bleeding. Despite the coaching staff wanting to take him off, Kumar played on and helped India win gold.
8. Rakesh goes by the nickname "Munna". He is still recognised by that name in his village. He told the Indian Express, "If you say ‘Rakesh,’ not many would recognise me. Even some of the national coaches who have seen me grow up call me that".
9. Rakesh is a huge fan of Aamir Khan. He was excited to see Aamir as a spectator, albeit cheering for the opposite team (Jaipur Pink Panthers owned by Abhishek Bachchan). He was quoted by Hindustan Times as saying, "I told Aamir I'd watched all his movies. But he said he had become my fan after watching me play."
10. Rakesh is also well known for his love for papaya. In one pre-match show, Rakesh was also shown taking part in a papaya eating challenge. He has told Sportskeeda before, "I like other fruits as well, I eat them all, but papaya is my favourite. When we play, we sweat a lot and papaya helps in retention of the water content in the body."