Advent of ProKabaddi gives Kabaddi a new lease of life

From being a sport that was largely played in villages for entertainment, the advent of ProKabaddi has helped revolutionise the sport.

Sandeep Narwal started playing kabaddi on mud, a surface on which, he says, a player can run out of grasp easily.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

With the advent of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), the sport has evolved for all the former players-turned-coaches, seniors and the upcoming players. Earlier kabaddi was restricted mostly to villages as entertainment but now it is taken more seriously. Players now pay attention to their fitness, diet, endurance and technique as they are visible on television for four months in a year.

Anup Kumar, an Arjuna Awardee and part of the India team which won the gold in the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup, and coach of Puneri Paltan in PKL season 7, says ,"I started playing kabaddi on mud and now it is played on mat, so at times it is difficult for me to explain some techniques but as a coach I am also learning and improving my flaws. Coaching and playing are two completely different things. I want to gain more experience for myself and players."

Sharing his experience about how technical the sport has become after the transition from mud to synthetic mat and from barefoot to playing in shoes, Sandeep Narwal, vice-captain of U Mumba, says, “As a child, in my village Narwal, Haryana, I started playing on mud where a player can run out of your grasp easily and on the contrary it is easier to clasp a player on mat now.”

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The game has become fast with the inclusion of super raid, super tackle and do or die, to engage the viewers and spectators and keep them guessing till the last minute as to who will emerge as winners. Girish Maruti Ernak, defender, left corner for Puneri Paltan, has represented India in the last couple of years says, "Earlier a raid was about 40-45 seconds and now it is of 30 seconds and after two empty raids there is a last raid which is a do or die raid. The game has become faster now."

Players have to ensure that their fitness remains at the highest level with the game becoming speedy now. Eating well with proper coaching, learning new techniques, honing the skills and maintaining fitness makes a player, a challenging competitor. Manpreet Singh, who played for India as a raider from 2000 till 2010, started coaching Gujarat Fortune Giants since 2017, says, "If you eat healthy diet then only you will be able to work hard, and if you work hard then only you will rest well and if you rest well it will enable you to perform at your best."

Naveen Kumar of Dabang Delhi K.C. also known as Naveen express, famous for his explosive speed and cat like reflexes, feels this sport has given him a lot. Financially he is in a better position and game wise he has improved tremendously. “Whatever facilities a kabaddi player deserves, is getting it here like physios, nutrition and top class coaching . I hope that kabaddi soon gets included in Olympics,” says the 19-year-old raider who came through New Young Player (NYP) scheme.

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With NYP, PKL has benefitted young players with opportunities to get selected in the different teams and in the national team. Nitesh Kumar, captain, UP Yoddha who got selected from NYP has been playing kabaddi since he was six years old, says, “I went to give NYP trial in Jaipur, got selected in the camp in Gandhinagar. Then I went to one month NYP camp in Mumbai where I was taught discipline, all the essential aspects of our game and the sportsmanship.”