Saturday, Apr 21, 2018 | Last Update : 05:10 PM IST
He, however, felt the Maharashtra Kusti League will not suffer similar fate.
With the Pro Wrestling League already underway in its third season, the Maharashtra Kusti League was launched here by Maharashtra State Wrestling Association (MSWA) President Sharad Pawar. The organisers feel the tournament will bring top Indian and International players to Pune's Balewadi Sports complex from March 9 to 18 to reignite the wrestling craze especially in state, once called the cradle of wrestling in India. Wrestlers will compete for a prize money of Rs 25 lakh.
The venture by Zee Talkies with tagline ‘Takadichi kusti ani manoranjanachi masti’ hasn't yet finalised the players and teams but it is unlikely to field star Indian players like Sushil Kumar, Sakshi Malik and the state's own Rahul Aware who are already with Pro Wrestling League, which include franchises like Mumbai Maharathi and Vir Maratha. Top Mumbai wrestler Narsing Yadav also isn't a part of the event. The League has already roped in London Olympian Amit Kumar Dahiya who is rival to Aware in 57kg.
“I feel it is a good opportunity to play in the off-season. I hope also I get good decent money here,” Dahiya said. The 25-year-old Haryana wrestler, who practices with Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt, didn't feel he will face any stiff competition in the tournament. “I don't think there will be any top international players. Of course there will be competition from local wrestlers, but I am prepared. I will use the League to practice for Asian Games berth,” he added.
However, MSWA general secretary Balasaheb Landge said that wrestlers from eight foreign countries including Iran, Tunisia and USA will be part of the event. “We are in talks to get some Pro Wrestling League players on board also,” Landge said.Maharashtra known for producing world-class mud wrestlers in prestigious competitons like Maharashtra Kesri have struggled after mat competions were introduced in the country keeping the Olympics in mind. The promos in the event launch were also of mud wrestling only but the competition will be held on the mat inside Balewadi Sports Complex. Dahiya admitted those grapplers who are used to fight on mud will struggle big time on the mat.
Landge felt local wrestlers are ready now to fight on the mat. “We have introduced mat wrestling in many centres in the state. We even gave free mats in eight district centres. Many wrestlers are used to mat wrestling now,” he said.
Landge who is associated with Indian-style (mud) Wrestling Association of India also, admitted they have to introduce wrestlers to the mat from a young age to produce Olympic medal winners. “We as an association have been working on it but thinking has to change. Mud wrestling has its own significance and it is deep-rooed in our culture, but the aim should be to produce mat wrestlers from a young age. When the national anthem is sung and the flag goes up in the Olympics after an Indian wins medalm, that sight makes all of us proud,” he said.
Landge, who was part of the launch of Vishwavijeta Gama Wrestling World Cup event in Mumbai in August 2016 which was announced to be held in December 2016 but actually never happened, avoided talking about the World Cup non-starter.
“I was there when we, as the association, had given permission to the event to promote the sport in the state. But what transpired later... you can ask its organisers,” he said.
He, however, felt the Maharashtra Kusti League will not suffer similar fate. “We have had extensive talks with the organisers and they are serious about the event. We are working on it together,” he said.
Zee Group head Subhash Chandra, a Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, had floated the Indian Cricket League, which couldn't take off after couple of seasons as BCCI didn’t recognise it. But this time he is sure with Pawar on board the League can go places.
Pawar, president, National Congress Party and former chief minister, wished the League the best. “On the way to school we used to see wrestling competitions. In our homes also wrestling was the common discourse. I wish the league brings out players like Indian Premier League from small places,” said Pawar who was the BCCI President when IPL was launched in 2008 alongwith IPL commissioner Lalit Modi.