Arun battles odds for love of the game

To thrive as a kabaddi player, though, Arun is having to take unpaid leave for roughly four to six months a year to train for the season ahead. Employed with the postal department in Chennai, Arun has only 30 days of paid leave every year. He works roughly nine to ten hours a day.

A file photo of C. Arun (in yellow jersey) of Tamil Thalaivas. Arun says,"Playing for the team representing my state (Tamil Nadu) is great and familiarity helps focus on kabaddi.”   -  R. Ragu

A career as an Indian kabaddi player is not as rosy as that of a cricketer (at any level) or even a footballer. Playing a sport that doesn’t have tournaments round the year, professional kabaddi players are often caught between having to work for their foremost employers during the offseason and also ensuring they stay in touch with the sport. The latter may not always be possible for a lot of players who might have to forego their salary to train, hone their skills and be ready for the season ahead.

A left-cover defender hailing from the famous district of Tanjore (known as the Rice Bowl of Tamil Nadu), C. Arun, who plays for Tamil Thalaivas in the Pro Kabaddi League, exudes simplicity, humbleness and an impressive work ethic. To thrive as a kabaddi player, though, he is having to take unpaid leave for roughly four to six months a year to train for the season ahead.

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Employed with the postal department in Chennai, Arun has only 30 days of paid leave every year. He works roughly nine to ten hours a day and training after work hours is out of the question for a professional kabaddi player. Therefore, with only a few months to go for the start of PKL season VI, Arun has already begun training on his own.

“I have taken a break from work and already begun training on my own. I run four kilometres in the morning, train at the gym in the evening and do fitness work in between to gear up for the forthcoming season,” said Arun in an exclusive interview with Sportstar, on the sidelines of an event organised by Geo Foundation in the city on Friday.

One of three players to be retained by the franchise before the season VI auction, Arun says playing for Tamil Thalaivas makes him “comfortable” and provides a sense of belonging. “I feel happy to be playing for ‘my team’, I also feel comfortable. Playing for other franchises may involve communication problems because of the language (he speaks a bit of English but is most comfortable conversing in Tamil, his mother tongue). Playing for the team representing my state (Tamil Nadu) is great and familiarity helps focus on kabaddi.”

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Arun had his best season in PKL by far last season. He made 20 appearances, the most he has made in one PKL season, accumulated 35 tackle points (again his best tally) and finished with an overall tally of 36 points.

“Last year was my best in the league and my best performance came in the match against Bengal Warriors — in which I won eight tackle points. The goal this upcoming season is to put in more such performances.”

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Tamil Thalaivas finished bottom of Zone B last season and Arun is targeting reaching the final this upcoming season. “Last year, we lacked experience in the squad. This season, we have experienced players like Manjeet Chillar (a Category A all-rounder bought in the auction), Ajay Thakur (who was retained) and Jasvir Singh (a Category B raider also purchased at the auction), who can guide the team to new heights. The ambition is surely to reach the final. We have yet to gather as a squad after the auction and start training together, only after which we will learn the team strategy and begin preparing for the season.”

The Tamil Thalaivas training camp will begin in August. By when, a fit and hungry Arun will already be in a good place for the team’s second season in the league.