2020 THE LOST YEAR: Away from the bio-bubbles put in place by these with deep pockets, sport had its lockdown tales of angst, uncertainty and apprehension. THE INDIAN EXPRESS talks to those that missed out on their break-out yr or needed to delay their retirement.
At this stage in his profession, Ajay Thakur is properly used to followers speeding to him with requests for autographs and selfies. The hero of the 2016 kabaddi World Cup closing has talked about many instances how he revels within the adulation.
Those followers recognise him even at the moment. Despite the masks (a transparent indication of the tough instances we dwell in) and his police uniform, they rush to him. That’s when the Deputy Superintendent of Police in Himachal Pradesh finds himself taking a cautionary step again to maintain protected distance. A social distance.
The final time he educated for a kabaddi match, or for the game on the whole, was again in February, when he competed within the state championship the place he pocketed the Best All-Rounder Award. Since then, his uniform has modified from the same old sports activities equipment he dons when raiding on the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) mat to the Himachal Pradesh Police Service apparel.
Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 34-year-old Nalagarh native has been based mostly in Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh, patrolling the streets and striving to struggle the coronavirus. And kabaddi has usually been the very last thing on his thoughts.
“This (the season getting wiped out due to the pandemic) was a massive loss for us players, especially for the older players like me who maybe have less than five years left to play,” he says. “The biggest thing was that we couldn’t play kabaddi at all. But now there is always a fear that ‘yaar, mujhe bhi coronavirus toh nahi hua (Am I also infected with the coronavirus)?”
On the kabaddi mat, Thakur’s activity as a raider is to sneak via defences and get residence safely. Since March although, his position within the police has been to cease folks from leaving their houses unnecessarily.
“The most difficult bit was to get migrant workers who were heading back to their homes to enter quarantine. I’d be up early in the morning and return home only after 11 at night, sometimes two in the morning. There were people passing by at any time of the day. People would be trying to sneak out in the middle of the night, so it actually became a 24-hour job for us.”
In a yr that might have seen the 34-year-old former India captain, Arjuna Awardee, Asian Games gold (2014) and bronze (2018) medallist and Padma Shri compete within the eighth season of the PKL, Thakur has spent most of his time in his police job. And the exhaustion he suffered in the course of the scorching summer time months on the streets of Bilaspur is one thing he’s but to get over.
“It was a very difficult period for me in the force, and I’m still physically recovering from it,” he says.
Sports have began to renew the world over. There have been a couple of Grand Slams in tennis, the NBA is on, the Indian Premier League (IPL) was held efficiently, and the Indian cricket workforce is at present on tour in Australia. But as kabaddi is a contact sport, it hasn’t been capable of restart.
“The risk of (PKL) becoming a super-spreader was much higher than, say cricket,” says Sandip Tarkas, CEO of 2019 champions Bengal Warriors. “Even if one player has this virus, chances are all his teammates will pick it up and so will the opposition. Of course, this year we couldn’t have the Olympics or the T20 World Cup in cricket. Those events, however, have been postponed. PKL has cleanly lost a year.”
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Because of it, there’s a probability that among the extra senior gamers within the league have misplaced a major period of time earlier than they name it quits. Thakur finds himself in that place.
“When I won the Arjuna Award last year, I was confident I’d play at least another three years,” he says. “I nonetheless wish to play at the least three years, nevertheless it’s going to be far more tough to remain match. It’s not simply due to the age although.
“Jab main 18 ka tha, family ki koi zimmedari mere pe nahi thi. Abhi sab zimmedari mujh pe hai (When I was 18, I didn’t have any family responsibilities on me. Now everything is one me). It’s difficult to get away from that. Age doesn’t get you down, responsibilities do.”
Thakur hasn’t performed or educated within the sport since February. His every day schedule, nonetheless, does embody a session of bodily coaching to maintain the physique match, however not sufficient to get him to the extent he must be the dominant participant he has been over time. Right now, his responsibilities within the police take larger priority over the game that has seen him obtain every part there may be on provide – besides successful a PKL title. And 2020 has made it all of the harder for him.
“Body fit rakhne waala fitness kar raha hoon main. Lekin player banne waali fitness nahi kar paya (I’m keeping the body fit, but not enough to play),” he says. “This year has been a complete waste. Bahut zyada kathin raha hai (It’s been very tough).”