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Business News/ Mint-lounge / Features/  10 reasons to embrace wrestling
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10 reasons to embrace wrestling

Making a case for wrestling

Sushil Kumar. Andy Buchanan/AFPPremium
Sushil Kumar. Andy Buchanan/AFP

My cricket and tennis-obsessed WhatsApp guy gang couldn’t understand my sports updates. Twitter dismissed my pleas to watch muscle hit mat at the ongoing Commonwealth Games (CWG) at Glasgow. In office, they preferred some tedious India-England Test match. I hope you are not as apathetic, dear reader, and I urge you to consider the case for wrestling. Here are 10 reasons I think you should love the sport.

Sushil Kumar. Former world champion. Hot. Humble (we put a premium on humility in success, right?). The only Indian sportsperson to win an individual medal in two Olympic Games (2008 and 2012). Ever. The new big daddy of wrestling has inspired so many young people to better their lives through sport. Like me, he’s vegetarian and drinks milk.

It can teach Indian men a thing or two. Ladies, you get to watch fit, strong men in tight, one-piece singlets. What’s not to like? Indian men, wrestling might just be a good way to help you work through your legendary homophobia. It will certainly help familiarize you with women who are physically stronger than you.

We are getting good at it. Twelve of our 14 wrestlers at the CWG won medals. One didn’t make the cut and one still had a chance at a bronze through repechage. While the real heavyweights from Eastern Europe don’t participate here, the CWG is important because until Delhi, nobody used world class and Indian wrestling in the same sentence. In 2002, we won just one medal. In recent years, it’s a sport where we’ve scored at the Olympics and the world championships. Besides, it’s always nice when a commentator says: “The Indian is dominating."

It’s an equal opportunity sport. Some sports like shooting require a bigger investment for equipment and training. A wrestler needs a mat, an opponent and a guru with some moves. There are no entry barriers. Many wrestlers come from farming families. Sushil Kumar’s dad was a wrestler turned Delhi bus conductor.

Women are rocking it too. We sent seven men and seven women to Glasgow. Women are not trained with equal ferocity but every competitive success will open doors of more men-only akharas. It’s still one of the few good news stories about women to come out of Haryana. Nineteen-year-old Vinesh, our national champion in her weight category who comes from the legendary Phogat family (where all the girls are wrestlers), beat an experienced Englishwoman who was confident she would win. Wrestling’s miracles feature our women.

It has history. Wrestling was one of the sports in the ancient Olympic Games. Pehelwans and men with maces have been around in India since before the Mughals. Wrestling has depth. India’s first individual Olympic medal was in wrestling, Khashaba Jadhav. When the winner returned, says David Wallechinsky in The Complete Book Of The Olympics, he was “accompanied during the final 40 km of his journey to his home village of Goleshwar by his fellow villagers and a procession of 151 bullock carts".

It’s short and sweet. One match comprises two 3-minute periods. If you’re watching Sushil Kumar, he’s unlikely to need even 6 minutes of your time. It’s the perfect sport for the attention-deficit generation. Also, it’s action-packed. More attacking equals more points.

The rules are easy-peasy. Before you know it, you’ll be yelling: “Great job reversing." One evening of watching and you’ll know your pins from your rolls. Add a few takedowns and double leg throws and you’re good to go.

We need a sport that is unlikely to be IPL-ized. Look what they did to kabaddi. I’m so glad WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) already exists. Indian wrestling is likely to retain its magical mix of earth and dust, it will always conjure up the smell of clay and ghee.

Boxing is in chaos. This sport, another favourite of mine, is caught in a messy bureaucratic tangle that is unlikely to be resolved any time soon. Until then at least, will you say yes to wrestling?

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Published: 31 Jul 2014, 10:33 PM IST
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