2019 World Wrestling Championship Watch: Sushil Kumar
With slow whispers of the wrestler’s impending retirement from the sport doing rounds, will it be time for us to celebrate a champion in him once again this year as the World Championship rolls on September 13?
A stocky Sushil hitting the mat is a rare phenomenon to go unnoticed. The usual cacophony sets in. The crowd chants, bouts being played in the other corner, and grumpy coaches hoarsely screaming instructions, but nothing seems to faze him. He now finds himself at the forefront, in glaring focus. Hear out the decibels generated as he lunges for a quick takedown. And Sushil Kumar does it again, by means of tapping into the reserves of his inner strength and taking his opponent down. As the nation gears up to witness the high-octane action and a series of nerve-wracking encounters at the World Championship on Friday, the Sushil Kumar enigma seems to get the better of us.
Career embroiled in controversies
Not many fancy an eminent career muddied by a series of controversies. And Sushil’s career graph over the years is no exemption to this scrutiny. He might be India’s most successful wrestler of all time, but he has had his fair bit of controversies. His career roadmap has come under intense scrutiny in the whole gamut of the mat-game. His long absenteeism from the international stage has sparked off bulletproof talks, debates, and discussions, setting off a cascading chain of events that stunted the growth of the sport in India. And today, a Sushil Kumar bout is as attractive as ever.
Controversies always seemed to have trodden on the heels of the Indian grappler, and what is there to blame for? Reminiscing the past, Sushil marched several steps ahead to set newer trends in Indian wrestling, which it for so long, vied for. He lapped up a bronze in style at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and went on to improve his winning feat with an impressive silver-medal effort at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Sushil, however, did not sail through a smooth pitch during trials last month when the crowd witnessed glimpses of a fiery bout with his compatriot Jitender on the mat. The incident is the latest in Sushil’s trysts with controversies. A series of foul cries followed from Jitender as he lay on the mat, writhing in pain. Sushil apologised, as a rattled Jitender with an inflamed left eye accused him of playing it rough. In a bid to forge an impressive comeback into the national squad, a valiant Sushil did enough to secure a place for the upcoming World Championship, which begins on September 14 in Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan.
Fast forward to the contentious selection trials in 2015 for the World Championship as Sushil sat out owing to a shoulder injury that he suffered during practice. The dream to represent India in Rio was, then, in unforeseen jeopardy. The incident provoked a raging debate on which wrestler should represent the country in the 74-kg category at the Rio Olympics, if not Sushil. Narsingh Yadav was called on to fill the spot. Sushil, however, did not sit back, he approached the Delhi High court seeking a trial bout in the 74-kg category against Narsingh but it bore no significant fruit. The tremors that rocked Indian wrestling were a long time in the making, as we saw two finest Indian wrestlers pitted against each other, against the backdrop of a skewed federation. Now with his eminence taking a beating since moving court, Sushil ended his legal wrangle after the court dismissed his plea.
Bout and brawl
The road to the 2018 Commonwealth Games was never as flat as a pancake. Long after the clamour inside the stadium ended, matters leaned on to a nasty side when Parveen Rana, after losing to Sushil in the semi-final clash, pointed accusatory fingers at Kumar and his supporters for having beaten him and his brother Naveen. An FIR was then lodged against Sushil on charges of attacking Rana; the flames of the allegation were, however, stamped out in a week’s time.
With slow whispers of the wrestler’s impending retirement from the sport doing rounds, will it be time for us to celebrate a champion in him once again this year as the World Championship rolls this Friday? Another chance for Indian wrestlers to flex their muscles, and for us, a spectacle to be savoured.