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Star Sports Pro Kabaddi League 2016: Tough times forced me to work as a waiter, says Rishank Devadiga

For Rishank Devadiga, toughest challenges came not on the mat, but from life.

Rishank Devadiga
Rishank Devadiga’s heroics went in vain as U Mumba lost narrowly to Patna in the finals of season 3

There is something about Rishank Devadiga and do-or-die raids. You don’t expect Anup Kumar and Shabeer Bapu to come back with empty raids most of the times, but at times when they do, they know there is someone behind them, so hungry and so sure that you can bet your life on him to come back with points. Those who know him would know from where that hunger actually emanates.

While a young Devadiga must have picked up a lot from his coaches, nothing prepared the kabaddi star better for his do-or-die raids than his life. From looking like a lost newbie full of potential in the first season to becoming one of the stars of the league and looking the part with a stylish French beard, the U Mumba player has come of age in the three seasons of Star Sports Pro Kabaddi.

In a league where one Maharashtrian Nilesh Shinde captains Bengal Warriors and another Maharashtrian Kashiling Adake struts his stuff for the Delhi franchise, Rishank Devadiga brings a whiff of sanity while representing U Mumba. And he is quick to admit his pleasure about the same. “Being someone from here, I love representing the city and truly enjoy playing for U Mumba.”

And much to the credit of Devadiga, he proved his indispensability to the team in such a way that the management chose to retain him ahead of the auctions after season 3. So, his fans will see him wearing the U Mumba colors this season as well.

The journey to this point has been anything but easy for Devadiga. “I lost my father at an early age. I had to look after my elder sister and mother. Those were tough times financially. I had to leave my education in between to support my family. It was tough to quit college and pick up a waiter’s job. But that was the need of the hour and i did it.”

The boy from Kundapur in Karnataka who likes to call him Mumbai boy now didn’t stop dreaming even when he worked as a waiter at the Leela Hotel. “I have always dreamt big. I always wanted to earn a lot of money and travel in ships and cruises.”

To say that Devadiga’s love for Kabaddi has paid off would be an understatement. But how exactly did it all start for the 24-year-old? Devadiga reveals, “I grew up watching people play kabaddi around me and was hooked to it by the age of 7-8, when i took up the game.” So, was he as good at do-or-die raids then too as he is now?

Also read: Star Sports Pro Kabaddi League 2016: SWOT Analysis of U Mumba

Pat comes the reply, “No. I started off as a defender.” It was one of those weekend local matches where his performance caught the eye of a coach. “Sir saw me and selected me to play in professional tournaments”. Soon a young Rishank was wowing everyone with his raids and tackles to emerge as the best player. “ I won Rs 5000 for that award” reminisces the lynchpin of U Mumba. This would turn out to be merely the opening credits of an astonishing turnaround story of Devadiga’s life.

Life has changed for Kabaddi players all around the country after Star Sports Pro Kabaddi beamed onto everyone’s television sets in 2014. The game that used to became a part of discussion only for a few days every time Ithe Indian team won the World Cup and then forgotten quickly suddenly climbed up the popularity ladder courtesy Pro Kabaddi.

Names that no one had heard of before and moves whose names elicited laughter became part of dinner table discussions now. The barrel-chested Devadiga, young and red hot with his dramatic do or die raids, became one of the early poster boys of the league. The rags to riches story added to the aura of the young man. How did he cope with the sudden fame?

Well, the reply makes it clear that Rishank didn’t take to fame like a duck to water. “It was tough initially. It all happened too fast for me. It took a lot of time to adjust.” Rishank cites one incident to make it clear. “I remember we were shooting a video. It wasn’t a very long video. But since we were not used to it all, it took us almost 7-8 hours to shoot.” But there were perks to the new found fame as well as Rishank excitedly adds, “But thanks to Pro Kabaddi, I got the chance to meet Aamir Khan.”

In the team, Captain Anup Kumar is the one who the 24 year looks up to. He makes no bones about his fondness for the skipper who himself is an excellent raider. “I am a huge fan of Anup Kumar. I have been following his game very closely since a long time and have learnt a lot from him by playing alongside him in U Mumba.” The influence of the skipper was there for everyone to see as Rishank rechristened himself as team’s leading raider in the absence of his skipper who had to leave for national duties midway in season 3.

Also read: Pro Kabaddi 2016 Teams & Players: Find Full list of PKL Season 4 Teams & Playing Squads

That season, Rishank finished as team’s leading raider and became one of the three raiders in the season to accrue more than 100 raid points tells something about Anup Kumar’s influence on one of the brightest future prospects for team India. Rishank also added another feather in his cap by picking up the second most number of bonus points behind Surjeet Singh.

But, sadly for Devadiga and U Mumba, it was not to prove enough as the team stumbled at the last hurdle to lose a thrilling final against the Patna Pirates. Talking about that night, Devadiga says, “It was just not our day. I was really upset at the loss but there wasn’t much we could have done as it was a very close match that we lost.” The hurt of the missed chance still lurks in his voice but it has steeled his resolve even more. “It always hurts to come so close and to not get the title. At the end of the day, the title is everything,” insists Devadiga before signing off.

In the absence of Shabeer Bapu, Rishank Devadiga will be having to shoulder more responsibility for his team this season, but for all that Rishank has faced in his life, the weight of this responsibility won’t be heavy enough to challenge his broad shoulders.

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