There is something in the name Sachin!

The 18-year-old teenage sensation Sachin Tawar, the youngest player in the Pro-Kabaddi League, is also the Gujarat FortuneGiants’ star-raider. In his very first PKL season, the talented youngster has grabbed eyeballs aplenty with his stellar performances and has impressed experts and fans alike.

Sachin Tawar (yellow) is the foremost raider for Gujarat FortuneGiants in the Vivo Pro Kabaddi League (Season 5).   -  MANOB CHOWDHURY

“Sachin, Sachiiiin,” roars the crowd as he steps on to the mat. But this isn’t the Sachin you’re thinking about; this is the 18-year-old teenage sensation Sachin Tawar, the youngest player in the Pro-Kabaddi League, who is also the Gujarat FortuneGiants’ star-raider.

In his very first PKL season, the talented youngster has grabbed eyeballs aplenty with his stellar performances and has impressed experts and fans alike. He has racked up a whopping 153 points from 22 games so far, along with an impressive 115 successful raids.

Hailing from the village of Badbar in the Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan, Sachin fell in love with kabaddi early in his childhood. His elder brother was an avid player and taking the cue, Sachin at the age of 12 decided he wanted to emulate his bhaiya.

“I started playing with bhaiya and his friends. I found it tough initially as it was physically demanding and the others were much stronger than me,” he admits. “I practised for 2-3 years and went on to join the Gandhinagar Sports Authority of India.”

But did he not face any pressure from home to finish his studies? “I focused more on kabaddi than studies. I used to study only before exams,” he says with a sheepish grin.

The move to SAI proved to be life-changing for him as it gave him a chance to further develop his skills, along with learning the nuances of the sport, which would go on to take him places. Coaches at the academy noted his potential and a string of strong performances saw him make his way into the Indian junior kabaddi team, a team he further went on to captain.

Dabang Delhi defenders try in vain to grab Sachin (red).   -  B. JOTHI RAMALINGAM

From there on, he only climbed greater heights and joined the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) side, which further propelled him into the limelight. “The coach (Manpreet) saw I was performing well at ONGC and got me to GFG,” he says while exchanging a quick smile with Manpreet, who is seated beside him.

“As a coach of the ONGC team, I have seen him play and grow over the last two years. He is very strong-hearted and determined,” says Manpreet Singh, the Gujarat FortuneGiant’s coach. “We play four games in a day in all-India tournaments and he puts up high-level performances there as well. Stamina, skill, agility and age are all on his side. He is truly god-gifted,” Manpreet says in admiration of his student.

Since his entry into the PKL, Sachin has taken the league by storm with his exemplary raiding skills, which saw him become the first GFG player to score 100 points this season. Many were skeptical when he was bought for a massive Rs. 36 lacs, but he has justified his price tag.

But doesn’t he face immense pressure while playing in the world’s biggest kabaddi league that also features players from Iran, South Korea and Bangladesh? Manpreet is quick to point out, “Pressure is for those who have not played before. For someone who has captained the junior national side at the Asian Championships and has three junior national gold medals, there is no pressure.”

When asked if there are any downsides to being the youngest in the team, Sachin says, “There are no issues as such. My seniors aren’t too strict and don’t scold me if I make a mistake.” He quickly adds with a shy smile, “But yes, they do pull my leg now and then.”

He is certain that many youngsters will follow in his footsteps and join PKL. “In our training facility at SAI, there are many good players but they’re also very young. My entry into PKL will serve as a motivation for them also to join,” he says.

Sachin has a long kabaddi career ahead of him, with his ultimate goal being to represent India at the World Cup. “My current target is to bag the PKL Young Talent award,” he concludes with a wide grin, as the team manager motions for him to wrap up and get ready for a gruelling evening of practice.