His age is 57. He was a kabaddi player, and represented Tamil Nadu for consecutive 20 years, helping his state to become a dominant force in Indian kabaddi in the late 80s and 90s. He also had an opportunity to don Indian shirts in an invitation match against Japan. The match was held in Kolkata. But his mission was different. He wanted to be an exception in the field sport in India. He is R Ravichandran. He wanted to offer the poor, rural boys of Tamil Nadu a financially sustainable future and in a bid to fulfill his mission, Ravichandran built up the famous kabaddi club Alakaranthai in Kanyakumari.
Today, looking at the statistics, an envious figure comes out. This club, under the passionate guidance of Ravichandran, has already produced more than 20 international players who have donned India shirts in different international competitions. Presently, more than 10 players have been representing different franchisee teams in the Pro-Kabaddi League.
Still, this 57-year-old coach has not yet been recommended for the Dronacharya award.
No Regret – R Ravichandran
R Ravichandran does not have regret. Rather the coach feels that students like Jeeva Kumar, Suresh Kumar, Ranjit Chandran, and Manikandan who have made Indian kabaddi proud over the years are his laurels. He feels proud more than pride with any ‘so-called’ award when some of these students go to the club, share their happy moments with the coach and offer tips to the trainees. Speaking over the phone, Ravichandran commented smilingly,
“Tamil Nadu state government and state kabaddi association, none of the organizations has yet recommended my name for the Dronacharya award. Still, I do not feel sad. Bhaskaran, the former international hockey player, and national coach from Tamil Nadu is my friend. He often praises me by saying that I do not need the Dronacharya award as all my students express gratitude by calling me the ‘Real Dronacharya’.”
Once, R Ravichandran had also women kabaddi students. Some even had an impressive performance in the nationals and they were also selected for the Indian women’s team. N. Nathya, V. Srija, and R.Vasanthi’s names can easily be mentioned as they all have represented the Indian team in different competitions. Ravichandran informed that they are financially settled now. But presently, Alakarathai Club does not have any girl students. It currently has 75 students and most of the students are in the junior and sub-junior categories. Ravichandran trains these boys in two sessions in the morning and evening. The club has modern infrastructure including 10 grounds, a big indoor hall for practicing on the mats, and a gymnasium consisting of modern equipment. Interestingly, seating on the prayers and meditation is mandatory for the players before starting training.
The Upsurge of R Ravichandran & Kabaddi in Tamil Nadu
According to R Ravichandran, since his club started getting success in the middle of the 90s, more kabaddi clubs were formed and the overall development of the game was visible. The coach stated,
“Inspired by Alakaranthai’s success, more kabaddi clubs were formed. I can instantly mention 15 to 20 clubs which also have been developing the game by trying to produce players.”
But R Ravichandran has not stopped his habit. He still roams around the state, through the interior and the villages for scouting, and gathers potential young boys.-- Advertisement --
R Ravichandran’s Satisfaction
The coach expressed happiness especially in one aspect saying,
“When I was a player then kabaddi players did not have much scope of getting jobs. Only Tamil Nadu State Electricity Board (TNSEB) and Police offered jobs for the kabaddi players as I have been an employee of TNSEB. But today’s scenario has changed a lot. The kabaddi players whose performances are helping the state to win gold in the national championships are being offered jobs in different sectors. I had a mission that I wanted to create an environment through kabaddi where the poor youth from rural areas sustain themselves financially. That has been successful to some extent at least.”