Nitin Tomar stands out from the crorepatis in Pro Kabaddi League 2019. Coming from a Haryana family associated with wrestling, he is pursuing a career in the Indian Navy alongside fulfilling sporting ambitions. The raider was the highest paid player (Rs 93 lakh bid by UP Yoddha at the player auction) two seasons ago, his price tag crossed the one crore mark (Rs 1.15 crore auction bid by Puneri Paltan) last year. The Pune franchise utilised the buy-back clause to bring back its star into the squad, albeit at a premium (Rs 1.20 crore at 2019 auction).
Three back-to-back seasons, his market value has taken a steady upward curve. Tomar, a member of the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup-winning side under Anup Kumar, now his coach, was not even aware of the bidding war this season breaking out between Tamil Thalaivas and Paltan, during the auction. “I was in Coimbatore when the auction was on, doing my Navy course training (Chief Petty Officer). Later my colleagues conveyed the news and realised that I was back with Puneri Paltan. It made me happy.”
He added, “The management know the sport, they know the type of players required and go for them. My preparation, performance led to the team getting me back. I will try to repay their faith in me by working along with the coach to win the title.” The Pune franchise had initially planned to build a brand new squad and so released all players from 2018 season into the auction pool, including the star raider. The appointment of a new chief coach (former India senior and national team captain Anup Kumar) made the franchise opt for change.
Asked about the difference, if any, in dealing with Anup the India captain and Anup the team coach, the raider explained: “I was a junior in the squad, he was the leader. Anup pointed out our errors and also made us aware of he expected from us.” said Tomar, currently in Baner (Pune) at a preparatory camp with Puneri Paltan. “We train twice daily, morning and evening. I want to work with the team and coaches to mould the squad into a winning unit,” said the ace raider, whose experience and presence on the mat is expected to play a big part in the team's game plan.
PKL 2018 was a landmark season for the sport due to the emergence of youngsters. Raiders Siddharth Desai (U Mumba), Prashant Rai (Bengaluru Bulls), Sachin Talwar (Gujarat Fortunegiants), catchers Nitesh Kumar (UP Yoddha), Surender Singh (U Mumba) turned heads with displays on the mat, won matches in style. Desai, a debutant last season, attracted the highest bid (Rs 1.45 crore) during the latest auction from Telugu Titans, the next highest was Rs 1.20 crore paid for Tomar.
Asked about the success of the new faces in a professional league, Paltan’s star explained: “When the young players got into Pro Kabaddi, they are determined to impress people watching and go all out to make a mark from the start. Recognition follows when they begin playing with competent sides.”
The 2019 season of PKL commences in Hyderabad on July 20.