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Phogat sisters struggle to match performance with pedigree

Babita (left) has won a bronze at the worlds and a gold at the Commonwealth Games. Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Apart from Olympic medalist Sakshi Malik, the showrunners for the Professional Wrestling League are the Phogat sisters. It helps of course that the blockbuster Amir Khan starrer Dangal is based on the lives of two of them -- Geeta and Babita.

But while they might draw in the crowds, the first family of Indian women wrestling isn't having a great time on the mat. Four sisters feature in the League- Geeta, Babita, Ritu and Sangeeta. Two - Babita and Ritu - have competed. They lost both matches giving away 20 points and scoring none. Ritu was beaten by Mariya Stadnik by way of technical superiority with a half a minute to go. Babita, who went into action on Wednesday, did worse - being pinned inside 42 seconds of the first round against Sofia Mattsson.

Geeta, the oldest of the sisters, and Sangeeta - the youngest in the competition have had their matches blocked by their own teams - something done when their team believes they are likely to lose the expected matchup. In such circumstances, the PWL's twitter hashtag 'AsliDangal' (real Dangal) which likely was playing off the film's name seems doubly ironic.

There's no denying the pedigree of the wrestlers. Geeta brought women's wrestling to public consciousness with her gold medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Babita has a gold from the 2014 Games, a bronze at the World Championships and like Geeta is an Olympian.

The highest priced Indian woman at the PWL auction, Ritu is considered one of the brightest prospects in Indian wrestling as a silver and bronze in the world juniors would suggest. Having moved to the seniors, she has added a Commonwealth Championship gold. In the absence of cousin Vinesh, who is still recovering from an injury suffered at the Rio Olympics, Ritu was considered the standard bearer for Indians in the 48kg category. At 17, Sangeeta, an Asian cadet silver medalist, is the youngest wrestler in the PWL.

It could be argued that perhaps Babita and Ritu didn't have the easiest of opponents to face. Babita's opponent Mattsson was coming off an Olympic bronze in the 53 kg division, while Stadnik took her third Olympic medal - a silver - at Rio. Geeta was scheduled to face Olympic bronze medalist Marwa Amri while Sangeeta would have been pitted against Betzabeth Arguello who had finished 5th in Rio.

By themselves, these rivals would not be enough to guarantee a loss. In the first edition of the league, Babita had beaten world championship bronze medalist Tetyana Kit, while Ritu twice beate Alyssa Lampe, who had a world bronze as well. But this season, its uncertain whether Babita and Geeta had the best preparation for the PWL.

Geeta hasn't wrestled competitively since the Olympic qualifying tournament in April. Babita hadn't competed since the Rio Olympics. Geeta has had to take time off to get married as well. They have also had to be involved in promotional events for the the release of the movie based on their life. The wedding and the movie release took place just around a month before the league started.

Considering the quality of international opposition they were to face, this wasn't nearly enough time to prepare. On her return, Babita simply couldn't match the pace set by Mattsson. She had little movement and once she was on the ground with her right arm tied up at the wrist and elbow, the end was inevitable.

Ritu, on the other hand, has been competing regularly. She won her second gold at the wrestling national championships in October and added a commonwealth championships medal a month later. But the level of opposition in those tournaments was going to be limited.

Stadnik was easily the strongest opponent of her career. The Azeri was always going to be a hard opponent because she changes levels quickly and Ritu is particularly vulnerable to leg attacks. Once she was taken down, she showed limited ground defence too. Stadnik was a steep learning curve for her and for the moment it seems Ritu has some way to go to match the level of her more illustrious compatriot.