Campbell Brown: ‘A fantastic opportunity for us’

"It’s an exciting sport. It reminds me a bit of Twenty20 cricket in a way. It’s exciting from the first minute; loud music and the crowd. It’s different and physically demanding. But if you are very fit, very strong and smart, it would be a good mix to play a good game," says former AFL player Campbell Brown of kabaddi.

Australian Captain Campbell Brown (left) with team-mates during the World Cup in Ahmedabad. Talking of Australia's foray into kabaddi, Brown says, "This is the start, and probably it will take two years to get to know things. These are baby steps. To spark some interest, we need to do a lot of work."   -  Vijay Soneji

Campbell Brown told an Australian television channel that never did he think he would be in India playing kabaddi and that too in a World Cup competition. Talking about the Indian sport, the Hawthorn and Gold Coast AFL defender said, “You’ve got 30 seconds to raid and it’s high intensity with seven defenders waiting for you to be slow on your feet or take your eye off for one second, then they come around and nail you.”

In a chat with Sportstar, the 33-year-old former AFL player talks about the initial pangs of playing kabaddi at the highest level and more about the game.

Excerpts:

Question: How are you associated with the Shane Warne Foundation?

Answer: I was an ambassador for the Shane Warne Foundation (SWF). He’s a good friend; I have known him for over 10 years. We have played a lot of poker. The SWF no longer exists. In July 2015, I attempted to swim the English Channel to raise money for the SWF. I got halfway across and then the weather changed; it got really bad. I had a little bit to go. I started from Dover and was trying to swim to Calais. Shane had represented Australia in India before, so he told us to embrace the people and their culture and play hard as we can for Australia. He complimented this country. He was in the UK when he spoke to me. He spoke to me before the first game and wished us luck. It was a surprise to him obviously that we were going to play kabaddi here; he just had a laugh. People in Australia expect me to do crazy things.

Australia is going to play a cricket Test series in India early next year. Do you think exchange of kabaddi tours will help Australia?

If it happens, it would be fantastic. If they can somehow come up with a concept that during the Australian cricket tour here, we can also come here and play a tournament. This could work really well. It would certainly double the interest if, as a team, we could show that we are improving and ready to take up the sport seriously. Shane Warne could be here next year for Star Sports and so it would be good if the cricketers come and see us play. We can also go and see them play cricket.

 

Do you think kabaddi will truly appeal to the Australians who are passionate about sports?

This is the start, and probably it will take two years to get to know things. These are baby steps. To spark some interest, we need to do a lot of work, and also transform that interest into participation and try to represent the country. It is a new sport for Australia and the guys who have come here are prepared for the long haul. I am a bit old; I am 33, but the other guys are in their early 20s. They all said they would indeed play the sport if opportunities come in the next two years.

How did the team prepare for the World Cup?

We were given all the rules. We were tested on umpires’ signals, and the practical side of it, when we were playing. The coaches did a fantastic job. They would stop us and tell us the rules. Apart from a couple of guys trying to leave the mat on the wrong side, the understanding of the rules under the pressure of real competition in the first game here was great. And one thing I want to put my hand up and say is that I did not chant kabaddi when they (opponents) were coming at me. They let us off in the first game.

What have you learnt from the Indians here?

We watched the Indian team train, doing drills and practice which was a nice gesture. We sat for 20 minutes and saw them train with three defenders and one raider and working up different tactics. This was organised by our coach Navneet (Gautam).

Which aspect of kabaddi appeals to you the most?

Tackling, the cat-and-mouse-game that goes on and the tough side of the game. It’s an exciting sport. It reminds me a bit of Twenty20 cricket in a way. It’s exciting from the first minute; loud music and the crowd. It’s different and physically demanding. But if you are very fit, very strong and smart, it would be a good mix to play a good game.

Most of you are AFL players. You have had to make adjustments on a smaller court/mat…

The big thing probably for us is, if we take our eyes off for a split second, we are out of the court. The idiosyncrasies of the game are different…using hands and spinning out of tackles. In Australia, I just used to run through; it has not worked here. We will be taking home the vision so that we can see them, improve and also show it to others and get them involved in the sport. It’s not often in sport that you get a chance from the start. And so, it has been a fantastic opportunity for us.

How many sports have you played at a competitive level?

AFL, swimming and international rules football against Ireland. In Dublin, there were 86000 people at the Croke Park. The Irish are crazy. Each sport I have played has given me a different challenge. I was not such a great cricketer. I played cricket in school, but none of the guys with whom I played went on to play for Australia. Mark Simpson was Australia under-19 captain, but he gave it away because of a bad back. But I know James Faulkner and John Hastings.

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