Coach Mahabali Satpal, who is also Sushil Kumar’s father-in-law, is understandably skewed in his opinion on the question of whether or not there ought to be a trial in 74 kg. He is in favour of a winner-takes-all face-off between Sushil and Narsingh Yadav — a last chance for Sushil to head to Rio. The only chance, in fact, given the grappler’s not turned out at any meet for two years where he could be appraised for form or fitness.
But from the outset of this will-they-won’t-they debate — since September 2015 in fact when Narsingh won the quota and a medal at the Worlds — Sushil’s constant refrain has been, “Main isko na haraau, toh baahar jaake kya karunga?” If he can’t get past Narsingh, what chance does he stand at the Olympics.
It is this simple reasoning which drove Sushil to move court in Delhi asking for a trial, even if it would seem grossly unfair to snatch what Narsingh’s earned through consistency from him. “The trial will give you a clear picture of who’s best suited to win a medal for India. If Sushil were to lose the trial, then the whole world will know Narsingh is our best and vice versa. But we need to decide this fast,” Satpal said soon after the Delhi High Court offered its directive.
“Sushil is fit and only asking for a trial,” he repeated.
While he rates Narsingh very highly as a 74 kg wrestler — “we were all impressed with how he overturned a 8-point deficit at Las Vegas” — Satpal believes that it’s not entirely fair to say that a quota in 74 kg wouldn’t have come, had it not been for Narsingh. “Many wrestlers qualified after the World Championship. So you can’t say that if needed, Sushil wouldn’t have won the quota himself,” he says.
“We didn’t want to aggravate the shoulder. But he’s fit now and now we need to think only about the medal,” he adds.
“By chance if Narsingh goes without trial and is unlucky to not win a medal, people will question why trials weren’t held. If a trial happens and even if Sushil loses, Narsingh will go there without any doubts hanging,” he stresses.
Satpal fishes out a news clipping from a few months ago (“four column story in Hindi paper”) where a WFI official had been quoted saying trials would be held 2 months before the Olympics. “Why else did they approve his 40-day training in Georgia if Narsingh had the quota last September?” he repeatedly questions.
Satpal’s argument borders on the audacious when he says, “Today wrestling in India is talked about so much because of Sushil.”
But the old fox says this is not the time to get stuck in technicalities and precedents (“Though it’s not true that trials were never held in India”). “And this can’t be about a wrestler from Delhi or Maharashtra, we have to think of who’s the best bet to win a medal,” he adds.
Isn’t it unfair that one match (and a possible win) should give Sushil the go-ahead at the cost of Narsingh’s consistent showing? “Best of three kyun? Aath-dus matches karvaao. Sushil is ready to prove himself in any trial,” Satpal ends.