They beat a strong Haryana outfit, comprising Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) stars, in the semi-final before finishing runners-up to defending champions Railways in the final
Maharashtra kabaddi captain Shankar Gadai (right) with his parents at the sugarcane farm in Bhenda Budruk village
On July 24, Maharashtra kabaddi team captain Shankar Gadai, 24, helped his young team reach the Senior National Kabaddi Championship final in Charkhi, Haryana. It was a remarkable achievement for Gadai and his team in their maiden nationals. They beat a strong Haryana outfit, comprising Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) stars, in the semi-final before finishing runners-up to defending champions Railways in the final.
Days later, however, life remains the same for Gadai, who begins work at 5am as a daily wage labourer on a sugarcane farm in Bhenda Budruk village of Ahmednagar district. “I have no other option, but to work on someone’s farmland to make ends meet. Then, I head off to attend a few events in the afternoon, where I will be felicitated with a bouquet and then head to practise at Ranvir Sports Club [RSC],” Gadai told mid-day from Bhenda Budruk recently.
Main source of income
Gadai, who works till 12 noon daily, added: “My entire family—father [Bhimraj, 40], mother [Sakhubai, 35] and myself—are into sugarcane-cutting. This is our main source of income. We earn approximately Rs 500 to Rs 600 a day depending how much work we do on that particular day. My other income source is the share I get from winning various kabaddi tournaments. Sometimes the amount is Rs 1,000, at times Rs 2,000. I have no other option but to adjust. I’m hoping for some cash award from the state association for our recent performance at the nationals,” said Gadai.
RSC coach Prashant Labade, 35, who has groomed Gadai since he was 11, hailed his ward’s never-give-up attitude. “Shankar has strong willpower and fighting spirit. Right from his childhood, I have seen how hard his family works on the farm. And it’s sad that even after leading Maharashtra at the senior nationals, he continues to do the same work,” remarked Labade.
Last March, Gadai led Ahmednagar to their first State Kabaddi Championship, beating Mumbai City in Bhiwandi. Ahmednagar has also produced former India captain Pankaj Shirsat, who led the country to the World Cup title in 2007.
Praise for Gadai
Shirsat rates Gadai as India material. “His tough financial situation makes it tough to balance work and sport, but he is a terrific player and I would advice him to focus more on kabaddi. He has the potential to play at the highest level,” said Shirsat, an Assistant Commissioner of Police in Vasai.
The PKL auctions will be held in the city across Friday and Saturday and Gadai is hoping for a financial boost therein. “Whatever I am today is because of kabaddi. I’m grateful to my coach, Labade sir. Without his support this could not have been possible. After my recent performance at the state level and senior nationals, I’m hoping to get a good offer from a top team,” Gadai signed off.
Originally published at www.mid-day.com