JAIPUR: It was time for Dabang Delhi to launch a raid into the opposition and a tall, dark youngster with a moustache as threatening as his body language strode forward confidently to do it. His introduction was met by a unanimous roar of approval by the Jaipur crowd as chants of ‘Kashi, Kashi’ resonated around the Sawai Mansingh Stadium. As he pranced menacingly along the mid-line, the chain of defenders recoiled instinctively. They knew Kashiling Adake meant business.
In its three years of existence, the Pro Kabaddi League has thrown up many a rags to riches story, but none have perhaps been more memorable than that of the Dabang Delhi captain. At 23, Kashi, a farmer from Kasegaon in Maharashtra is one of, if not the first, Kabaddi superstars in the country. In another world, he would have still been two-timing his work on the field with his job in a sugarcane factory to ensure his family ate regularly. Now instead, anybody who has seen a couple of PKL games is lining up for a selfie.
As is the case with most of the domestic players in PKL, Kashi grew up playing Kabaddi in his village. “I come from a family of wrestlers, but I had no interest in it. I used to play a lot of Kabaddi in school. But then my father died and the responsibility of running my family fell on me.”
That meant a temporary goodbye to Kabaddi. “I stopped practising and went to work in the fields,” he says. “It was then that I got a trial with Sports Authority of India. I did not get selected and my mother was heartbroken. She asked me to start practising and make sure that I was selected the next year. I did just that.”
“The first thing I did with PKL money was to build a new house. My family used to live in a hut and that had collapsed in the rains,” he added.
Not all of his post-PKL life has been smooth. Earlier this year, his name figured in a harassment case filed by a female Kabaddi player. But Kashi is just thankful for everything that has come his way. “I never thought life would change like this,” he says. “Now I am getting to play the game I love and learn new things while doing it. People recognise me everywhere. I am just grateful.”