Raiding his way to top

Raiding his way to top

Kabaddi : Karnataka's Sukesh Hegde, a key member of Telugu Titans, has made rapid progress in a short time

Raiding his way to top

Even before the curtains could fall on the highly successful second season of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) on Sunday, many star performers from the eight franchises have become household names across the country.

The league, which has also opened its door to foreign players, witnessed ten kabaddi players from Karnataka. One of the standout performers from the State, for the second straight season has been Sukesh Hegde.

Playing for the Telugu Titans, Sukesh, the captain of the Karnataka State team, is having a dream run at the moment.

After leading Karnataka to a silver medal in the 35th National Games held in Kerala early this year, the attacking raider has made a mark with his dazzling performances for the Titans.

Following a promising inaugural edition, where he was one of the key men in the Titans' arsenal, Sukesh has turned out be one of the most valuable players for his team in the second season. The Hyderabad based team's fine show, which saw them reach the semifinal stage where they went down fighting to Bengaluru Bulls, can be attributed to good team work. But Sukesh has left his own mark with his dominant show and the 26-year old, who won four best raider awards this season, is basking in the glory.

Hailing from Karkala taluk in Udupi, the lanky lad has fought over many obstacles to realise his dreams. "During my childhood, there weren't many kabaddi clubs and most of our training happened in school," he recollects.

Son of a private driver, financial hardships were part and parcel of his life, but Sukesh remained focused on his first goal and that was getting into the State team. "After my schooling, I moved to Mangaluru and joined Alva's Moodbidri to bolster my chances of representing the State side. With better facilities and exposure to the game, it was indeed a turning point," he says.

The State call finally arrived in 2011 and since then Sukesh has been a regular feature in the side. A memorable outing in the Senior National Championship last year caught the attention of the Hyderabad franchise and following his debut in the PKL, the youngster has not looked back.

"I am thankful to my trainers who have played an integral role in my journey. It was a great learning experience to work with senior coach Ramesh Suvarna. He has produced many talented players such as Mamatha Poojary and I consider myself extremely lucky to have trained under him.

"I also got a lot of inputs from my coach Kanvakar Shetty in Alva's and after a lot of hard work, it was a wonderful moment to represent my State," Sukesh added.

Recognised for his sharp raiding skills, Sukesh was one of the two Karnataka players to be selected for the six-member Indian squad for the Beach Asian Games, held in Thailand in November last.

"We clinched the bronze in the Games and it was a proud moment. It was a team filled with youngsters and we put up a fighting performance to bag a medal for the country. Apart from me, Rishank Devadiga was the other player from Karnataka selected for the Games,” says a gleaming Sukesh.

The success was soon followed by a call for the Asian Games camp and the experience of playing with the senior lot was indeed a boost for Sukesh's career. "Though I did not make it to the final squad due to an injury, I improved a lot on my game and the desire to represent my country got stronger.” 

Capitalising on his vast experience at the State level, Sukesh cashed in on the opportunity that he received from PKL and his stint with the Titans has given him a huge fan following. "When you play for a franchise in a league that is very popular, you get good fan following and it was pleasing to see people recognising me in different States and not just during the home matches."

Now employed at Vijaya Bank, Sukesh has recorded 147 raid points in 27 matches from two seasons for the Titans.

Having seen him from close quarters, Karnataka team coach BC Ramesh says he was impressed by Sukesh’s ability to pick up the game quickly. “He is a fast learner of the game. Sukesh is a humble player who speaks less and believes in working hard. He has indeed been Karnataka’s pride,” says Ramesh, a former India international.

BC Suresh, brother of Ramesh and also a former India player, believes Sukesh has been instrumental in taking Karnataka kabaddi to greater heights. “He has been very consistent since the time he made his State debut.

“Despite suffering a knee injury in this season of PKL, he has managed to remain one of their top stars and that shows his commitment. He has displayed great promise so far and looks good to wear the India colours soon,” says Suresh.

With hard work and focus being Sukesh’s mantra for success, it won’t be a surprise if an India call comes anytime soon for this passionate youngster.

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