Mumbai: Even as the countdown of the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup, organised by the International Kabaddi Federation begins in Ahmedabad on 7 October, the state that nurtured the game to a national level finds itself completely out of the picture from this global tournament.
Poor management of the state association, lack of leadership, and above all growing apathy for the game from the administrators, have ensured that not a single player from Maharashtra is part of the Indian national team that will play with 12 best teams in the world, including US, UK and Australia this week.
Kabaddi is the state game of Maharashtra, which produces the highest number of players from four regions – Mumbai, Mumbai metropolitan, Ratnagiri and Sangli. But today, the state does not have even one player in the Indian national team.
It is important to know that Maharashtra played a crucial role in the modern version of the game by creating the process of standardising the rules of kabaddi in the late 1920s.
Former state players point finger at the lop-sided functioning of the Maharashtra State Kabaddi Association (MSKA) – a body now completely controlled by the big lobby from the Marathwada region.
Sources told Firstpost that six players from Maharashtra made it to the national camp in Gandhinagar on 26 September, but none were selected. The biggest shock is the non-selection of Kashiling Adke, the 32 year-old raider from Kasegaon village in Sangli district. “It is very unfortunate that we have failed to back our players. Adke is a star of Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) and needed support from MSKA, which did not come,” said Raju Bhavsar, former India kabaddi captain and now top expert with the PKL.
A game that was nurtured by Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar for over 40 years, MSKA was headed by his nephew and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar. However, recently Pawar Jr became President of the Maharashtra Olympic Association through his leadership in the state kho-kho association. As per rules, he had to give up MSKA position, which was taken over by Kishor Patil from Aurangabad. Under Patil, MSKA is all about members from Latur, Parbhani, Usmanabad and Nanded.
The scenario today is that Mumbai, which has over 400 kabaddi clubs, does not have representation on MSKA, while those holding power in Patil’s team, do not even have two to three local teams in their respective districts. Firstpost tried to contact Patil without success.
It is interesting to know that while there is no remorse about the fact that not a single Maharashtra player from a pool of hundreds of talented ones made to the national team, Patil has gone and become manager of the Indian national kabaddi team.
“It is an utter shame,” stated Nitesh Rane, Congress MLA from Kankavli district. “Maharashtra has kept kabaddi alive and we do not have a single player in the national team for the World Cup. Local kabaddi players in my own constituency started questioning me on this. MSKA needs to explain this lapse to the entire state. There has to be accountability,” asserted Rane.
Never nominated from his home district Sangli to MSKA, it is no surprise that former players like Bhavsar have moved to PKL, a professionally-managed team. “PKL is a different ball game, where the celeb and corporate owners are highly focused on the players and their performance. But in MSKA there is no effort to understand the direction where the game is going. Players did not even get the prize money in the Maha Kabaddi league organised by MSKA and the annual event did not even take place for two years,” alleged Bhavsar.
When contacted, Kiran Pawaskar, MLC of NCP and Vice-President of MSKA admitted that poor representation is an issue. “This is an eye-opener and we need to all come together to ensure Maharashtra gains its rightful position,” he added. Pawaskar, who has played a key role in organising major kabaddi events for the association and the corporate world, insisted that Ajit Pawar must come back at the helm of affairs of MSKA. “Things will improve when Ajit dada leads the kabaddi movement yet again,” states Pawaskar.
Countering that Rane hit back saying, “I don’t really care which politician is running MSKA. The issue is that they have let Maharashtra down and our players have lost a huge, global opportunity."
The writer is a senior journalist and communications expert based in Mumbai. You can follow her on @smitadeshmukh