By Ajeyo Basu
New Delhi, Jan 13 (IANS) His team is making its debut in the Pro Wrestling League (PWL) this season, but Veer Marathas co-owner Ranjit Saxena has already started to chalk out ambitious plans to promote the traditional sport at the grassroots level.
“We are preparing a programme to develop wrestling at the grassroots level in Maharashtra. First we want to increase the popularity of wrestling through the PWL and then start from there by taking this sport to the schools run by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC),” Saxena told IANS.
“The BMC schools are giving a lot of importance to Indian traditional sports. As a result, there is a lot of demand for coaches. We want to provide coaches to those schools.
“We also want to support the akhadas in Kolhapur, Pune, Aurangabad and Satara. We want to put up big screens to telecast PWL matches at these places in order to improve the wrestlers’ morale and then provide support to the budding wrestlers. We also want to scout fresh talent and support them,” he added.
Although Maharashtra has a strong wrestling culture — like several other regions in India — grapplers from Haryana have been the dominant force at the national level in recent years.
Saxena is, however, determined to change this trend.
“Look at the history of Maharashtra. The first Olympic medal in wrestling was won by Kasaba Jadhav. Maharashtra has always produced good wrestlers. But in the last few years, the entire limelight has been taken up by Haryana and Punjab which are producing most of the top class wrestlers. We want to put Maharashtra wrestling back on top,” he said.
“If we start working at the grassroots level now, then by the 2024 Olympics, I am sure we will be able to prepare a talent pool in Maharashtra which can make the country proud.This will take an effort spanning a minimum of three to four years. Just one season of PWL or one year’s effort cannot change anything,” he added.
Veer Marathas did not enjoy a memorable debut in the PWL, producing a gallant fight before being defeated 5-2 by title contenders Haryana Hammers in the first match of their campaign on Wednesday evening.
Saxena is, however, confident that the Marathas will recover from the setback and go on to win the title.
The Marathas had started well by winning the first two bouts of the seven-match tie, but the Hammers won five bouts in a row to seal victory.
“We will win this league. We play to win. Our team has a lot of firepower. More than winning the title, we want to win the hearts of people,” Saxena asserted.
The Maratha’s star wrestler, Parveen Rana, was in the limelight a couple of days ago following a fracas with two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar at the trials to select the Indian squad for this year’s Commonwealth Games.
Rana had alleged that he fears for his safety after Sushil’s supporters and relatives beat up his elder brother following their bout at the trials.
The two grapplers are due to face off in the 74 kilogram category when the Marathas meet the Delhi Sultans in a PWL tie on January 21.
Saxena, however, wants Rana to forget about the controversy and focus on his own performance.
“This controversy is good for the PWL’s publicity. Any publicity is good publicity. But the players can come under a lot of pressure due to this. We don’t want to think about such issues,” he said.
“Two big names are involved here. Sushil has done a lot for the country. There is a lot of brotherhood between Rana and Sushil. I am sure after Sushil’s retirement, the responsibility of representing India in the 74 kilogram category will fall on Rana.”
(Ajeyo Basu can be contacted at email@example.com)