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One for the long run — Chhattisgarh’s Durgesh Sahu makes it big at the Yuva Kabaddi Series

One of the main protagonists in Chambal Challengers' run to the playoffs, Durgesh Sahu has made Chhattisgarh proud!

One for the long run — Chhattisgarh’s Durgesh Sahu makes it big at the Yuva Kabaddi Series

Sayan Chatterjee

Updated: 14 Aug 2023 8:14 PM GMT

“In my academy in Bilaspur, and when I was a junior, I used to play mostly as a raider. But when I started playing at the senior level, I realised there were much better raiders than me. That is when I thought I could be a good defender. There was an empty position in the team for Right Corner, so I took that position.”

This, in a nutshell, is what Chambal Challengers’ defender Durgesh Sahu is all about — finding a place for himself and giving it everything that he humanly can to make it his own!

Durgesh Sahoo (number 4 shorts) along with his Chambal Challengers teammates

Ever-present for the Challengers in the Summer 2023 edition of Yuva Kabaddi Series in Mysore, Durgesh, who hails from Bilaspur district in Chhattisgarh, started playing Kabaddi when he was in 7th standard.

It was his elder brother’s support that encouraged him to take up the sport seriously, despite having to travel 40 km from his home to the ‘Veer Shivaji Dal’ academy in Chingrajpara village to train. “My elder brother used to say that as long as my mind was in it, I should practise hard and play. I couldn’t have made it as a kabaddi player without my family’s support”, Durgesh reminisces.

While in school, he first played at state level in Bilaspur, and was then selected for the U14 Sub Junior Nationals in Patna. Soon enough, he was drafted into the side for the Senior Nationals. But how was a 16-year-old selected to play in the Senior Nationals? “My game had improved rapidly by that time, so my selection for the Nationals held in Charkhi Dadri, Haryana, went through without much fuss”, he says sheepishly.

The rapid progression came at a cost though! Durgesh soon found out that with his slightly shorter stature, it would be difficult for him to break through as a raider. “I was shorter than the other raiders. So my coaches Hemant Yadav Sir and Pradeep Yadav Sir advised me to give up raiding and start playing right corner. So I switched to playing as a defender”, he recalls.

There has been no looking back since. From playing in local tournaments to featuring in the longest-running kabaddi tournament in the country, Durgesh has come a long way. Now an established defender, the 22-year-old was omnipresent in the Challengers’ Summer Edition campaign, making 28 appearances and registering as many as 124 tackles and five 'Super Tackles', both highest in his team. He ended the campaign with 60 points in total, underlining his impact as the side's premier defender!

Speaking about how he signed up for the YKS experience, Durgesh explains, “I never imagined that I would get such a great platform to play, along with all the perks that the Yuva Kabaddi Series offers. I came to know about it when it was held in Jharkhand. Two players that I knew from beforehand, Sanskar and Umesh, played in it. I was genuinely hoping that I would get to play in the next edition and when trials were held in my academy in Bilaspur, I wasted no time to enrol myself.”

It has been quite a journey for the youngster, who hails from a simple farming family and had the courage to follow his passion. He now hopes that more kids from his district will start playing kabaddi, something that is already happening.

“Around 100-120 kids from my village train regularly now. I hope many more young kids in Chhattisgarh will be inspired after seeing me play here, especially after watching the matches on television. All they need is good nutrition, which many of them cannot afford, and good training. I am sure if they get that they will shine”, a hopeful Durgesh explains.

Having reached the playoffs in this edition, Chambal Challengers crashed out in the third Eliminator after going down 32-39 against the Nilgiri Knights. Missing out on the trophy after coming this far was a big disappointment for Durgesh, but he prefers to look at the brighter side.

“Initially, the team combination was not working, we were not supporting each other. But then we got together and addressed the issues with the help of our coach, and since then, we had a great run. We’ll do better next time”, he signs off.

Durgesh executing his trademark 'ankle lock'

Durgesh’s story is an example of how talent is never enough on its own in top-level sport. Instead, the ability to reinvent yourself and being dynamic enough to adjust to changing circumstances is what makes a good player great in the long run, in any sport. One can only hope that his journey inspires kids in Chhattisgarh to follow in his footsteps and make the state the new breeding ground for future kabaddi superstars.

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