The north-east of India may have been a largely ignored area of the country for a long time. But in the field of sports, it has stood tall, mainly due to the incredible sporting achievements of Manipur. This tiny, insurgency-infested province keeps producing a large number of exceptional talents who bring India glory at the international stage. In fact, the only state in the country that can match Manipur's prolificacy in sports is Haryana.
Occasionally, players from Tripura and Mizoram have also made a mark. But one state that has been left behind is the most prominent of them all – Assam. In spite of having been an international venue for cricket, the state could never become a powerhouse in domestic circuit and hadn't produced a famous cricketer.
Emergence of new stars
But if one were to look at the brilliant innings played by Riyan Parag for Rajasthan Royals against Delhi Capitals in Indian Premier League (IPL), it appears that will change soon. Parag, who became the youngest player to score a fifty in IPL, at the age of 17 years and 175 days, showed incredible maturity in tackling the spin-friendly conditions that befuddled his other teammates.
But before Parag emerged as a rising star from Assam in the IPL, another teenager from there was making waves. Hima Das is well on her way to becoming one of the greatest athletes that the country has produced. Her victory at the IAAF World U20 Championships last year made her a household name. She proudly wore the Assamese 'Gamosa' – the traditional scarf of the state – as she took in the applause.
Culture of sports
It's not that sporting culture was completely absent from the north-eastern state. It hosted the 2007 National Games and even topped the medals list. In the last Asian Games that took place in 2015, Assam was 10th in the medals table with 9 golds, 5 silvers and 11 bronzes.
Last year, chief minister of the state Sarbananda Sonowal felicitated 16 top sporting personalities of the state. Among those who were honoured was Riyan Parag – awarded the Best Upcoming Player for his performance in the Under-19 cricket World Cup.
Some years ago, Abu Nechim, an all-rounder from Assam played a minor role in the Mumbai Indians team. But he was still the most prominent face in IPL from the land of Brahmaputra. With players like Hima Das and Riyan Parag making a huge splash, it's only a matter of time before more inspired young men and women emerge on the international sporting scene from the state. The whole nation would love that and join in saying, 'Joi Aai Axom' (Victory to Mother Assam).