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From Daily Wage Labourer To Asian Games 2023 Medalist: Ram Baboo’s Fascinating Story

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A daily wage labourer’s son from an impoverished village in Uttar Pradesh, Asian Games bronze medallist race walker Ram Baboo’s journey from penury to fame is a fascinating story of a strong-willed man making his own destiny. Baboo, who won a 35km race walk mixed team bronze medal in the Asian Games along with Manju Rani, worked as a waiter to self-finance his athletics training and joined his father in road construction under MGNREGA scheme during the COVID-19 lockdown, as his family was hard-pressed. “I have done everything possible in my life so far, from working as a waiter in Varanasi to digging up pits along with my father for road construction under MGNREGA scheme at our village,” the 24-year-old Baboo told PTI in an interview.

“It’s about determination and focus on your goal. If you are determined to achieve, you will find ways to reach your goal. That is what I did.” Baboo’s father works as manual labourer at Behura village at UP’s Sonbhadra district, earning Rs 3000 to 3500 per month which is not enough to run a family of six. Baboo is the only son while he has three sisters. His mother is a homemaker and sometimes helps her husband in his work.

“We don’t have any land and my father is a labourer. His work is seasonal. During paddy season, he will have more work but in other months his income is less. So, I need to do all these things to realise my dream,” he said.

“I was not good at studies and not interested also and so I wanted to make a career in sports.” Due to his mother’s insistence, Baboo took the entrance examination for Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV) near his home and got selected. He was admitted to class VI.

Baboo found it tough to follow what was being taught at the school and he began to lose interest in studies. Two years into the JNV stint, something made him decide on his future course of action towards his goal — the 2012 Olympics — where India won six medals.

“I was in class VII then and I watched at my school hostel television the likes of Mary Kom, Saina Nehwal, Sushil Kumar and Gagan Narang winning medals. The stories also came out in newspaper front pages the next day, and I read all of them.

“In fact, I kept cuttings of the newspaper articles and photos of the 2012 Olympics medal winners and kept them in my folder.” When he was at the JNV, he played all sports, including football, and he found out that he did not get easily tired even after a lot of running, unlike the other students. That was when he decided he would do long distance running.

He initially ran marathons, 10000m and 5000m but developed knee pain. On the advice of local coach Pramod Yadav, he later shifted to race walking which does not put too much pressure on his knees.

Baboo might have been born to semi-illiterate parents but he used social media to his advantage.

“I opened a facebook account and joined several FB groups relating to fitness and long distance running to find out who can help me in my endeavour.” In 2017, when he was around 17 years old, Baboo left for Varanasi where there is a proper athletics stadium and there he got in touch with coach Chandrabahan Yadav.

He took a rented house at Rs 1500 a month. His parents sent him a small amount of money and so he worked part-time as a waiter for one month.

“I got Rs 3000 per month for working as a waiter but they made me work till midnight and even at 1am. I had to get up at 4am for training at the stadium. It was very difficult for me. People did not respect me and misbehaved with me. So I left Varanasi and returned home.” In 2019, Baboo was able to convince a coach at Bhopal SAI Centre to take him under his wings. He then competed in the 50km event at the National Race Walk Championships in February 2020, just before the nation-wide COVID-19 lockdown, and finished fourth.

During the lockdown, the Bhopal SAI Centre was shut and Baboo returned home. His parents were finding it difficult to get work to survive.

“Luckily, we got work under the MGNREGA scheme and I helped my father in digging pits in road construction work. One person would get Rs 300 to 400 per day depending on the amount of work,” he said.

After working for one and a half months under the MGNREGA scheme, Baboo became restless, and he left for Bhopal again.

In February 2021, he won a 50km race walk silver medal in the National Race Walk Championships and that paved the way for his entry into the Army Sports Institute in Pune with the help of coach Basant Rana.

After the World Athletics decided to remove the 50km event from its programme, Baboo shifted to 35km event and won gold in the National Open Championships in September 2021, and a few months later, he was called to the national camp in Bengaluru.

After winning gold in 35km at the National Games last year with national record time, Baboo got a job in the Army, and he is a havildar now.

“My age at that time was 11 months more than that in the eligibility criteria but I got exemption after winning the National Games gold. I am currently under probation till next month and I am getting around Rs 10000, which is the basic pay.

“After this, I will get full salary and I will be able to look after my parents properly.” Rambabu, resident of Bhairava Gandhi of Bahuara Gram Panchayat of Sonbhadra district, belongs to a very poor family.

His mother Meena Devi told PTI that her son had the desire to achieve something since childhood.

“There is an atmosphere of happiness in the entire village and district due to his success in the Asian Games. However, Rambabu has struggled a lot to reach here,” she said.

“He needed better training to advance in his career but it was very difficult for the family to afford an academy. Despite all the difficulties, Rambabu’s father Chhotalal decided to enroll him in the academy and bore the expenses by working as a labourer.” To fulfill her son’s dream, Devi herself has sold khoya (milk mawa) in the nearby Madhupur market, she said.

“We do not have any agricultural land, so my husband works as an agricultural labourer,” she added.

His two elder sisters Pooja and Kiran are married while younger sister Suman is a first year engineering student in Prayagraj. Baboo said that he will shift to 20km race walk from next season as the mixed team event is unpredictable because the combined timing of male and female competitors of a country is taken into consideration for medal.

“You never know, my colleague (woman race walker) may not be able to do well on a particular day, she may be sick but still taking part or she may be disqualified during the competition. All these are not in my hands.

“So, I am shifting to a 20km event from next year.”

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Debutants Jaipur Patriots Draft Sreeja Akula As First pick Ahead Of UTT 2024

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The Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) franchises put their thinking caps on and found a way to pick the best possible squads for UTT 2024 at the Player Draft on Wednesday. The upcoming season of the league is scheduled to be held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai from August 22 to September 7 and will feature eight teams for the first time and a total of 48 players, including 16 foreigners. Newcomers Jaipur Patriots, who got the first pick in Round 1, went for in-form India star and current World No. 25 Sreeja Akula, who recently became the first Indian to clinch a WTT Contender singles title.

Puneri Paltan Table Tennis, who chose not to retain a player, picked Ayhika Mukherjee to kick off proceedings. Ahmedabad SG Pipers, the other franchise to make their UTT debut, went for Manush Shah as their first choice and then bagged the services of women’s World No.10 Bernadette Szocs of Romania in the second round.

The franchise-based league is promoted by Niraj Bajaj and Vita Dani under the auspices of the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI). “Today’s Player Draft is a testimony to the fact that some of the best players in the world now want to come and play in the UTT. We are very excited for UTT 2024. This is the first time we have eight teams, and we want to make this even bigger and better. We wish all the teams the best of luck for the upcoming season,” said UTT promoters Vita Dani and Niraj Bajaj.

A total of 48 players, including 16 foreigners, will be in action as teams finalised their six-member squads after the Player Draft.

“More or less, what we had discussed and strategised we got what we wanted. We wanted Sreeja and we got her in the first pick. We have a strong squad and we are confident that we can go all the way,” said Jaipur Patriots COO Imran Shaikh.

“SG Sports prides itself in getting a balanced team with excellent support staff, and we hope to create an environment of camaraderie and togetherness in the team. We’ve enjoyed success in other leagues and other sports with this same formula, so just looking to continue the same thing,” said Kartikeya Rao of Ahmedabad SG Pipers.

U Mumba TT went with the tried and tested formula by once again picking Nigerian star paddler and World No.19 Aruna Quadri. They also picked Asian Games bronze medallist Sutirtha Mukherjee. “Really glad about the way the draft went for us at U Mumba. There are no gaping holes in our squad. We were a bit worried about certain areas before the draft, but things worked out quite well and overall, I am very happy with the balance we have got,” said U Mumba CEO Suhail Chandhok.

PBG Bengaluru Smashers will have Alvaro Robles of Spain and Lily Zhang of the USA to support their retained star, Manika Batra.

“I am extremely happy with the squad we have got. Having retained Manika Batra, we have managed to pick the experienced duo of Alvaro Robles and Lily Zhang as foreign internationals, with Anthony Amalraj and Jeet Chandra as the perfect support cast for Indian men’s paddlers. Talented young paddler Taneesha Kotecha also comes as a great addition, and we are confident that this team will present a strong challenge,” said PBG Bengaluru Smashers owner Punit Balan.

Defending champions Goa Challengers, who had retained India star Harmeet Desai ahead of the draft, have a completely new look. They picked Yangzi Liu of Australia alongside young Indian paddlers Yashaswini Ghorpade and Sayali Wani. Mihai Bobocica of Italy, who had competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, will be their foreign men’s paddler.

“The drafting process is always very exciting, although we were a tad unlucky with pick number five during the drafting process. We had the same pick last year and we won the trophy. Hoping to replicate the same this year,” commented Vivek Bhargava, the owner of Goa Challengers.

Last edition’s runners-up Chennai Lions also went for a fresh look, with Japan’s Sakura Mori, Frenchman Jules Rolland, and local stars Poymantee Baisya, Mouma Das, and Abhinandh P.B. joining Indian table tennis legend Achanta Sharath Kamal, who was retained by the team. “We have a very mature team, some youngsters as well, but generally a very mature team. I’m quite happy with the picks that we’ve got considering the spot,” said G.S Ravi, owner of Chennai Lions.

Dabang Delhi will rely on Sathiyan G. along with Andreas Levenko of Austria. They also added young Indian paddlers Diya Chitale, Lakshita Narang, and Yashansh Malik to their squad.

“The draft was good for us. We anticipated we had an auction strategy in place, and for us, it has worked out well. The majority of the players that we had anticipated as part of the strategy we’ve got there,” said Durganath Wagle, CEO, Dabang Delhi TTC.

Squads:

Ahmedabad SG Pipers: Manush Shah, Bernadette Szocs (Romania), Lilian Bardet (France), Reeth Tennison, Pritha Vartikar, Jash Modi

Chennai Lions: Achanta Sharath Kamal, Sakura Mori (Japan), Jules Rolland (France), Poymantee Baisya, Mouma Das, Abhinandh PB

Dabang Delhi TTC: Sathiyan G, Orawan Paranang (Thailand), Diya Chitale, Andreas Levenko (Austria), Yashansh Malik, Lakshita Narang

Goa Challengers: Harmeet Desai, Yangzi Liu (Australia), Yashaswini Ghorpade, Sudhanshu Grover, Sayali Wani, Mihai Bobocica (Italy)

Jaipur Patriots: Sreeja Akula, Cho Seungmin (South Korea), Suthasini Sawettabut (Thailand), Snehit SFR, Ronit Bhanja, Moumita Dutta

PBG Bengaluru Smashers: Manika Batra, Alvaro Robles (Spain), Lily Zhang (USA), Jeet Chandra, Taneesha Kotecha, Amalraj Anthony

Puneri Paltan Table Tennis: Ayhika Mukherjee, Nina Mittelham (Germany), Joao Monteiro (Portugal), Ankur Bhattacharjee, Anirban Ghosh, Yashini Sivashankar

U Mumba TT: Manav Thakkar, Sutirtha Mukherjee, Aruna Quadri (Nigeria), Akash Pal, Kavyasree Baskar, Maria Xiao (Spain)

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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“2 Overpaid Guys Playing IPL Final”: Mitchell Starc Reveals Hilarious Chat With Pat Cummins

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After SRH paid Rs 20.5 crore for Pat Cummins, KKR splashed Rs 24.75 crore on Mitchell Starc.© BCCI




Records tumbled during the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction last year as the Rs 20 crore mark was breached not once, but twice. After SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) signed Australia captain Pat Cummins for Rs 20.5 crore, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) broke the record once again, splashing Rs 24.75 crore on Mitchell Starc. The bidding sequence received some mixed response from fans and experts. While some justified the price, there were some who were left wondering about whether the duo deserved such high a bid.

While Starc was pretty expensive during the group stage of IPL 2024, he came when it mattered the most, delivering match-winning performances in Qualifier 1 and the final.

Cummins, on the other hand, thrived on his leadership role at SRH, and was instrumental in taking his team to the final, where the 2016 champions lost to Starc’s KKR.

During a recent interaction, Starc has now admitted that both him and Cummins were a bit overpaid, and also revealed that the two had laugh about it. 

“Did Laugh. Pat & I got paid a fair bit. We played the first game & nine weeks later we play again in finals. Suddenly it goes from 2 overpaid guys to these 2 are playing the final,” Starc said on Willow Talk Cricket Podcast.

Recently, former Australia pacer Brett Lee ignored his compatriots while naming the best bowler across formats currently. He described India’s Jasprit Bumrah as the best bowler in the world.

“He is the best bowler in all formats right now and leads the attack. Bumrah can keep up an amazing pace while shaping the new ball away. His tournament performance demonstrated his leadership abilities, taking about 15 wickets with remarkable economy. He is absolutely exceptional, and India is deserving of praise for their accomplishments,” added the former Aussie pacer.

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PCB Retain Muhammad Yusuf, Asad Shafiq In Revamped Selection Panel

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File image of Muhammad Yusuf© X (Twitter)




The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has retained former players Muhammad Yousuf and Asad Shafiq in the revamped selection committee which will pick the teams for the home Test series against Bangladesh next month. Yousuf and Shafiq were members of the previous selection committee which picked the T20 World Cup squad. The PCB sacked members Wahab Riaz and Abdul Razzaq after the team failed to go beyond the first round in the mega event but surprisingly has retained Yousuf and Shafiq.

Yousuf was also the batting coach of the Pakistan team while Wahab also served as senior team manager on the tours to Ireland, England and in the World Cup.

The new committee will also include the captains and head coaches of the red and white-ball teams. All the members including Yousuf and Shafiq will hold voting rights and have decision-making authority.

In a new development, the board has also nominated assistant team coach Azhar Mahmood and four of its board members/employees as the non-voting members of the committee.

These include the advisor to PCB Chairman Bilal Afzal, Manager of Analytics and Team Strategy Hassan Cheema, Director of High-Performance Nadeem Khan, and Director of International Cricket Usman Wahla.

The restructured committee will be responsible for selecting the squad for the two-Test series against Bangladesh, which is part of the World Test Championship (WTC) 2023-25 cycle.

Bangladesh will face Pakistan in two Tests, with matches scheduled in Rawalpindi from August 21-25 and in Karachi from August 30-September 3.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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