Dhanam... rich vein of success

Coach Dhanam Reddy with his illustrious wards, the Indian women’s kabaddi team captain Tejaswini Bai, Arjuna Awardee Mamata Pujari and chief national coach Neetha Dadwe, who won the gold medal in the recent Incheon Asian Games.-V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

For Dhanam, into his 27th year as the women’s kabaddi coach of South Central Railway, life doesn’t change much even as his wards — captain Tejaswini and Mamatha — returned home to Hyderabad with gold medals from the recent Incheon Asian Games. He still travels all the way, a distance of about 50 km, every day in the morning from his residence in Langer House to the Railway Recreation Club Grounds to train his players. By V. V. Subrahmanyam.

He has an unbridled passion for the sport and rarely misses his daily training regimen at the serene Railway Recreation Club Grounds in Secunderabad. And the 55-year-old Dhanam Reddy has been doing this for close to two decades without fail. He has a proud record too to boast of — producing three Arjuna Awardees, Neetha Dhadwe, Mamatha Pujari and Tejaswini Bai, all Asian Games gold medallists also, besides several internationals who have won gold in the Asian championships in different categories.

For Dhanam, life doesn’t change much even as his wards — captain Tejaswini and Mamatha — returned home to Hyderabad with gold medals from the recent Incheon Asian Games. He still travels all the way, a distance of about 50 km, every day in the morning from his residence in the by-lanes of Langer House with the historic Golconda Fort in the backdrop, to the RRC to train his players.

The best part is unlike many of his peers, Dhanam, into his 27th year as the women’s kabaddi coach of South Central Railway, never complains about anything.

“My first priority is always to mould the raw talent and make them champion players to represent India. That is the single-point agenda when I take up the cause of any player,” he tells us gently.

Dhanam was a gold medallist in the Dhaka SAF Games, playing a key role as a ‘raider.’ For someone who grappled with his skills on sand courts, Dhanam is pleased to see the big changes in kabaddi with the synthetic mat coming into play. “I remember the foreigners didn’t like dust and thus the use of judo mats for international kabaddi events came into play. Since then, slowly indoor courts with mats replaced the natural sand courts. This is good both for the players and the spectators,” he says. “Those were the days when it was a regular feature to see many players with bruises after an important event. Now, the injury scare is less, and importantly the courts provide a better foothold. But the courts also demand peak fitness levels. Certainly, the game is looking more glamorous as was evident from the recent success of the inaugural edition of the Star Sports Pro Kabaddi League,” Dhanam pointed out.

A grateful Dhanam owes his kabaddi career to his classmate Subhash (an officer in the State Government) who coaxed him into the sport seeing his build.

Any ambitions? “Yes. To be recognised for my services to the sport as a coach. I know that only if you are with a successful Indian team or an athlete you will be in contention for the Dronacharya Award. But, it sometimes hurts me that not many bother to have a serious look at my contribution as a ‘feeder’ to the Indian teams over the years,” says Dhanam.

The victorious captain, Tejaswini Bai, said that the Incheon Asiad gold is another reminder of the dominance of India in the sport. “This, I feel, is a reminder that we continue to be a force to reckon with. The gold is definitely the result of the excellent cohesion that this team of experience and youth has shown right through,” says the 28-year-old captain who shifted her base from Bangalore to Hyderabad to join SCR in 2003.

“Yes, if the plans to start a separate Pro Kabaddi League for women gets going next year, as promised, then Indian kabaddi would witness a quantum jump both in terms of luring more youngsters to it and also changing the lifestyle of the players,” feels Tejaswini who picked up her second Asian Games gold.

The captain acknowledges the influence of Mamatha on the younger lot during the Incheon Asian Games and also reminds one that the coach, Neetha, also being from SCR, really made her job as leader much easier. “Definitely, there was a better understanding and an easier way to communicate on what we needed to do to plug the gaps and also focus on our strengths,” concludes a beaming Tejaswini, a senior officer in the SCR, even as Mamatha nods in acknowledgement.