As Babita Kumari made her way to the wrestling mat, her elder sister and teammate Geeta Phogat had a grim look on her face. Even as the 3000 spectators let out a loud cheer for Babita, there was no change in the Geeta’s expression. 46 seconds later, it went blank, both for Geeta and Babita. That was the time Sofia Mattsson took to pin down Babita in their 53kg bout during the Pro Wrestling League tie between Haryana Hammers and UP Dangal. Sofia, representing the former team, made little work of the UP team wrestler and stunned an almost packed KD Jadhav stadium.
Babita’s bout against Mattsson was a must-win for UP as they were trailing 3-2 in the best-of-seven contest and had their wrestler won, they would have levelled the score. But that never happened. It never looked like happening.
The moment the referee blew the whistle to begin the bout, Babita took a defensive stance. While Mattsson charged towards the centre of the mat, Babita stood her ground away from the centre. That gave the Swedish player an advantage as her opponent her looked to attack first.
“I wrestle like that. I want to be aggressive and when I saw the chance I went all out for it. It can be bad as well. If my opponent is quick and smart, she can be waiting for my attack and then make her own attack. But she did not do it today,” Mattsson said.
Indeed she has wrestled the way in her previous bout as well against Lalita Sherawat of Mumbai Maharathis. During her first bout, Mattsson did give up two points but on Wednesday, she made sure she doesn’t give any.
Before the start of the league, Babita had been busy in promoting and screening of Dangal, a biopic on the life of her father and coach Mahavir Phogat, in which her character alongwith Geeta’s have been shown as leads.
“Now that the movie has been made, I feel extra pressure to prove myself and make sure that I live up to the expectations of the fans. I am all set to wrestle on the mat now,” Babita had said last week.
But that was far from reality. After her first round loss at the Rio Olympics in August last year, Babita decided to skip the senior nationals that were held in two months back in October. It certainly affected her match fitness as she looked cagey on the mat against Mattsson and even after getting out of her hold once, her opponent was able to pin her.
The fans had also gathered to see India’s first female wrestlers in Olympics Geeta on the mat but her blocked the category, a condition in the league format where one weight category is blocked by either teams. The fans cheered every time she was shown on the big screen but after Babita’s match, most fans had the same grim look as the Phogat sisters.