HYDERABAD: Hyderabad is known for Sania Mirza, Pullela Gopichand, Saina Nehwal, Jwala Gutta, Gagan Narang, Mukesh Kumar and not to forget, VVS Laxman and Mithali Raj for their exploits on the field. But it’s not these sports stars who brought laurels to the country in recent times but a certain Mamata Poojary.
Born in Karkala in Udupi district, Karnataka, but based in Hyderabad, Mamata has led the Indian women’s kabaddi team to World Cup glory in its inaugural edition held at the Pataliputra Stadium in Patna. “It is one of the high points of my career and we won in front of a jam-packed indoor stadium,” recalls the 27-year-old who is known for her “deadly and attacking raids.”
Mamata, who is also an officer in the South Central Railway, points out, “We see crowds thronging to watch T20 and one-day international cricket matches. But believe me, when we played in the world cup, the crowds were just unimaginable.” The Kabaddi world cup featured 16 countries, including USA and Italy, for the first time and all the matches were played at the 5,000-capacity indoor stadium as per international rules. For the one match played outside, over 40,000 spectators turned up to watch the action! The organisers had to put up 10 giant screens to enable everyone enjoy the game. “For the first time, we could feel like cricket heroes like the Dhonis, Tendulkars or Sehwags,’’ says Mamata who believes the success in Asian Games-2010, where India won the gold, and the world cup triumph will help Kabaddi regain its lost glory. In the world cup final, India defeated Iran 25-19. “Iran is one of the toughest teams in the world. We managed to beat them by one point in the Asian Games but this time, we worked very hard against them and won convincingly,’’ Mamata explains. This tall raider, who was an athlete and a volleyball player before turning to kabaddi, also hopes that with the increasing interest in US, Italy and Japan, Kabaddi will gain more popularity and become competitive. For aspiring Kabaddi players, her advice is not to lose heart and she cites the cash awards that they came their way as an example. “But you have to be fit, otherwise you will be prone to muscle tears,’’ she points out. On the raiders’ role, she says speed and agility are important. “The team depends a lot on the raider to earn bonus points.’’ Mamata does exactly that. “She is very fast and brainy and is one of the best raiders,” says coach Dhanam Reddy, who first spotted the girl while she was playing for Mangalore district in an all India tournament.
Thanks to her and her team’s success, Kabaddi players in the city will have a Kabaddi mat for themselves. KRK Rao, new managing director of the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh, has promised Jagadishwar Yadav, secretary of the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India, a kabaddi mat for the benefit of city players. The city players currently hire mats from the SAI whenever there’s a match.