Living 2 dreams at the same time - Siddharth Desai heals family's broken hopes
Telugu Titans' 'Bahubali' Siddharth Desai was not the first member from his family to make an entry into the PKL. But, there had been tragedy in store the last time.
The Pro Kabaddi League has been a big stage for dreamers. Among those dreamers, there is one player living two dreams at the same time - one his own, the other his elder brother's.
For Siddharth Desai, a household name for his raiding exploits for U Mumba and Telugu Titans, his rise in the PKL is inextricably tied to how his elder brother was denied that very chance.
"Kabaddi was not in my plans earlier, I would have gone on to do a normal job. My elder brother Suraj started playing first. He has played 9 or 10 national championships for Services. He was picked by Dabang Delhi in the 4th season but unfortunately, an injury cut his career short," Siddharth told The Bridge.
When Siddharth first appeared on television, it was the second time his family was sitting in front of their screens to watch their son make his PKL debut. This time, however, the dream was to last.
"It was an emotional moment for everyone, including my family and elder brother. As a family, we had reached this moment before but injury had taken it away from us the last time. I am living my brother's dream of playing kabaddi through my career," an emotional Siddharth said about the shared dream.
The journey from Army to Pro Kabaddi League
Maharasthra's tehsils and talukas are famous for the culture of wrestling and kabaddi. Both sports are played in the region's abundant mud fields and have a huge local fan following.
Hailing from the Chandgad taluka of Kolhapur district, Siddharth picked up the game like any other teenager in his village. He then joined the services as a player to support his family.
During his days in the Army in 2014, he spotted kabaddi being shown on TV one day - that too in a much more glitzy avatar than he knew from his days playing in the mud. A thought struck his mind - what if he tried to pursue kabaddi as a profession?
"Kabaddi is very prevalent in our village, we have around 6-7 teams in our tehsil. After PKL started in 2014, I decided to make a career out of it and resigned from the Army. I came back to Pune, joined a local club and kept practising for five years," Siddharth narrated his journey from his village to the Army and back again.
PKL Journey - U Mumba to Telugu Titans
Siddharth was first picked by U Mumba, where he scored 218 points and finished the season as the third-best raider of the season.
The Telugu Titans superstar said, "I started appearing for Air India in pan-India tournaments and then eventually represented Maharashtra on the national level. I was picked in PKL auctions in my first appearance by U Mumba. When I returned to the auction the next season, Telugu Titans picked me and made me the highest-paid player in PKL history that season."
In his new home, Siddharth started a golden run. He scored 217 raid points for Telugu Titans in his first season for them and became a crowd favourite instantly.
"The switch to Telugu Titans was not tough as the CEO and other team members were very supportive. I had a big price tag, but I was comfortable here and it helped me perform well."
PKL Season 9 - Injury comeback and return to form
Siddharth Desai started well in season 8 of PKL, but an unfortunate shoulder injury ruled him out for the season.
Talking about the comeback from the serious injury, Siddharth said, "I was in good form when I got injured. I went through surgery again. It takes a lot to come back from such injuries as rehab takes up a lot of time."
"The impact of injury is both physical and psychological on a kabaddi player. The injury takes over you, especially in a combat sport like this. The fear was already there in my mind, and I was cautious in the beginning. But it is all gone now and I feel I am back at my best," he added.
Siddharth Desai is truly back in form and has completed 600 points in PKL with an impressive strike rate of 67%. He has scored 143 points this season.
Popularly known as the Bahubali, Siddharth has been the only silver lining in a dismal season for Telugu Titans. Recently, they won their second game after losing 14 games in a row.
Reflecting on Season 9 for him and Telugu Titans, he said, "This season has been underwhelming. One of the reasons is multiple injuries to key players. We could not figure out the team combination, which cost us. The players who were supposed to start for us kept getting injured - Abhishek Singh was wounded at the start, and Monu Goyat was still injured."
Despite the Telugu Titans' losing run, the fans constantly cheered the home team and made their presence felt across the Gachibowli Stadium during the Hyderabad leg.
"The fans overwhelmingly supported us, and we are grateful to them. Telugu Titans have such intense support during the games despite losing or winning. It gets tough when you are on a losing streak. We lost 14 matches on a trot before winning the last one, and it feels really good. As a player, I have kept myself motivated, and I will keep churning out such performances," Siddharth concluded.