Indian athlete Anil Mehta doesn’t like cricket. He loves muaythai.
His dreams to be a muaythai fighter have been laughed at by his cricket loving friends, but the 63.5kg class fighter Mehta, who had his first fight at the Arafura Games, is determined to be a better combatant and a role model.
For the past five years he has taken leave without pay from his police officer job to train in Thailand for a few months at a time.
“I wanted to be a professional fighter because there are no events for muaythai in India,” he said. “You know in India cricket is famous, but I don’t like it, I like muaythai.
“There are no good muaythai gyms in India or trainers, so I want to do something for my country so the next generation can say, ‘we have a muaythai fighter now’.”
As the only athlete representing India, Mehta self-funded his trip to the Arafura Games 2019.
He had no coach either, so he asked the coach from Singapore to help train him for his first fight against Chinese Taipei.
“The coach is from Thailand, so I knew him from before,” said Mehta.
“So, I went to him and let him know I have no coach. So, he said, ‘OK you can come with me and I will train you’.”
Mehta lost 28-29 but he is proud of his first fight.
“One of the judges came up to me afterwards and said you fight very good.
“I think my opponent thought the Indian fighter is like chicken meat, but I performed really well,” said Mehta, who is going to the World Muaythai Championships in Bangkok in July.
“Maybe next time they will realise not everyone in India is all about cricket.”