Dipesh Sinha – From shadows of fear to limelight
The mention of Dantewada doesn’t evoke images of children enjoying sports. In fact, for all these years, this little district of Chhatisgarh has been associated with the macabre of Maoist violence, making it one of those impenetrable forts of India’s Red Corridor. The infamy has seen a spike in the recent years with attacks on convoys of Special Police Officers and Indian soldiers claiming more than 100 lives in 2010. Not too far away from this site of violence grew a man whose services as a Spiker were bought by Ronnie Screwvala’s U Mumba recently for a whopping 9 lakhs at the inaugural Pro Volleyball League Auction. However, the look of serenity that Dipesh Sinha wears belies the drama of his story’s arc. After talking to him, one realizes that it’s possibly due to this calm that he was able to make the arc. <br> <br><br>So, how was it growing up in Dantewada for the tall blocker? In his soft voice, Sinha answers, “It was risky growing up in a place like Dantewada. Although the Maoists camps were deeper into the district and we lived on the outskirts, we were never too far from danger.” Danger was always around the corner for Dipesh, courtesy his parents being in the police force. Dipesh, who himself has joined his parents in the force, remembers his growing up days. “I grew up seeing a lot of guns. The CRPF forces were stationed very close to where we lived. At home, we had strict curfew times to adhere to. We couldn’t be out for too long else parents would be worried. It was difficult trusting strangers. We were warned against doing so.” <br> <br><br>Dipesh, currently living in Raipur, didn’t let his love for Volleyball get affected by all that was going around him and regularly proved his mettle at the school level. His height obviously proved to be the decisive factor for his inclination for the game. The 6’5 blocker remembers, “As I began to grow unusually taller than the rest, people kept suggesting me to take up sports suited to people of my height – Basketball and Volleyball. I took a liking for Volleyball and went for it.” <br><br> <br> <br>Another factor that made sure there was no stopping him pursuing his volleyball dreams was his being ‘average’ as a student. And the Chhatisgarh blocker doesn’t shy away from admitting it. The alumnus of Saraswati Sishu Vidya Mandir says, “I was lucky to have had supportive parents all along. However, their decision to support my interest in the sport was made easier by the fact that I was a very average student. But I was good in sports, especially Volleyball. So, Volleyball proved to be my refuge.” <br><br>If Dantewada was where his love for Volleyball blossomed, it was the steel city of Bhilai where Dipesh honed his skills in the academy. Life in Bhilai wasn’t a bed of roses but the hard work Sinha put in there ensured that his talent caught the attention of a former Volleyball stalwart G.E Sridharan in the 2010 National Championships. After seeing him put his skills to devastating use, Sridharan suggested Sinha to move to Coimbatore and develop his game under him. Since then, there has been no looking back for the blocker and he finally donned the India jersey for the senior team in 2015. <br> <br><br>“It was a proud moment to get selected for the national team in 2015. Mind you, the trials for the national team attract 150-200 candidates. To find a place in the final XI is a result of years of hard work.” But the biggest reward, he says, ‘is getting to hear the national anthem play as we stand together in front of the tricolor.’ He adds, “That’s when the significance of the moment dawns upon you.” <br> <br><br>Sinha, who was one of the Icon players for the inaugural season of Pro Volleyball League, was picked up by U Mumba at the auctions held on 14th of December. “All my friends followed the auction on Facebook. The phones kept ringing after I was picked. It was a great feeling to be picked up by a franchise like U Mumba.” <br> <br><br>The enormity of the challenge that lies ahead of him isn’t lost on him. The man who will be making an East to West move says, “U Mumba is a huge franchise. The way they have performed all these years in the Kabaddi league means there will be expectations from the Volleyball franchise also. So, yes, there is a bit of pressure on me as a player but I think it will only improve my game.” <br> <br><br>There is that tinge of excitement in his voice as he starts talking about the league and its future prospects. “We have seen lives changing because of sporting leagues. India used to win World Cups in Kabaddi and yet not many knew who’s who in the Indian Kabaddi world. It’s only after the league’s arrival that all those players have received recognition they deserved. There is definitely an expectation of that sort of recognition. After all, the dream of every son is that his father is known in the street by his son’s deeds.” <br> <br><br>Sinha also praises the league for the money it brings into the sport. “There are too many talented youngsters in the country who fail to pursue their love for the sport simply because after a point of time it’s not economically viable. With a professional league in place, there is a wider scope for them. It’s not only the national team they are training hard to break into. While that remains the ultimate dream, there is another team in the league where they’re competing for a spot. So, there are opportunities now that look financially attractive.” <br><br> <br> <br>Despite hailing from a state where cricket rules the roost, Sinha is extremely optimistic about the league’s chances. He says, “At the end of the day, Volleyball is the sport for masses. It’s a sport with easy rules and one that doesn’t require people to spend a lot of money to play. Once the league begins, I’m extremely confident that it will become even more popular.” <br><br>With a place in a strong side like U Mumba, Sinha’s story arc looks set to become more dramatic once the league begins. But Sinha is unfazed by those prospects and is happy to be in this moment. For now, he is entirely focused on representing Chhatisgarh in the National Volleyball Championships starting January.
RuPay Pro Volleyball League
An initiative of Baseline Ventures India Pvt. Ltd and Volleyball Federation of India, RuPay Pro Volleyball League aims to transform the sporting landscape of the country by elevating the world’s fifth most popular sport to the league of the most followed sports in the coming times. The first season of the league will see 6 teams playing a total of 18 matches in Chennai and Kochi, and will be broadcasted on Sony Six, Sony Ten 3 and online platform Sony Liv.
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