Services players show ProKabaddi what it was missing

"The Services players have arrived in a big way and have made a major impact. The two leading raiders in the top three are the Services players and because of them the standard of the league has improved."

Rohit Kumar evading Bengaluru Bulls defenders.   -  G. P. Sampath Kumar

Rohit Kumar is being seen as the brightest emerging star in Indian Kabaddi. Showing his raiding tricks in ProKabaddi season 3, he has turned around the fortunes of the Patna Pirates and put his side on top of the table with 57 points.

And personally, with 73 points, he’s behind teammate Pardeep Narwal (75 points) on the raid-points leader board. The Services policy of not releasing its players for the two previous leagues dulled the competition to an extent, but the likes of Rohit Kumar have brought about a whiff of fresh air to the league that’s been a great hit for the third season in a row.

A widely respected expert on the game and an Arjuna Awardee, Raju Bhavsar, sang peans of praise on Rohit Kumar’s excellent showing. He also pointed out that the Services players have lifted the profile of the league. “I am very impressed with right-raider Rohit Kumar. He’s an outstanding player and the future of Indian kabaddi. Yes, the league has been most appealing so far. The first reason is on account of the number of transfers that took place from one team to another. The first two seasons were bad for Puneri Paltan; they went on a major recruitment for the third season and have done well.”

“The second reason is that the Services players, who were not allowed to play in the first two seasons, have arrived in a big way and have made a major impact. The two leading raiders in the top three are the Services players and because of them, the standard of the league has been better than what it was in the previous two seasons. The basic style of kabaddi has remained the same. The players cannot change the style as such. But one can see the change in finishing and also the results of the matches. Whatever has been done by these players (from Services) has been of a different class,’’ said Bhavsar.

Apart from Rohit, another player who has taken centre-stage is the Pirates’ left raider, Pardeep Narwal. Bhavsar says, “He’s not from the Services. He’s given a new dimension to the ‘Dubki’ skill. Pardeep does it (Dubki) with aplomb. He goes ‘under the chain’ on any tackle, sits down, avoids the tackle and dives to the other side. Pardeep has employed it so well and that’s why he scored so many points.’’



Patna and Bengal riding on Services players’ form



According to Bhavsar, who is an expert on StarSports for the league, the Pirates and Bengal Warriors have largely benefitted from the presence of Services players. “The organisers offered 16 players from the Services with each team given the option to pick two chips and thereafter make their selection. Six teams picked two Services players each. The Pirates chose Rohit Kumar and Vinod Kumar and that’s the reason they are on top of the table now. Also, the Pirates have a senior player in Manpreet.”

In all 43 matches that have been played so far, the Bengal Warriors occupies the second place with 37 points ahead of U Mumba and the Telugu Titans. Bhavsar again gave the big points to a Services player. “The Warriors got a real boost because of Nitin Tomar. He’s an outstanding player; they got him in the lottery. The Warriors also got Girish Ernak, on transfer from the Pirates. Ernak is a left cover which improved the Warriors’ defence.’’



Injuries hampering Jaipur



Winner of the inaugural league, the Jaipur Pink Panthers, is languishing at the sixth position with 25 points. Bhavsar believes that the Jaipur side made the mistake of not going for Services players. “They were mainly depending on Jasvir Singh. But he was injured in the first leg of the league itself. And Sonu Narwal, could not rise to the occasion against good teams. He’s a very good player. But it was like playing well when you have the lead and not doing so well when you are down. With one player (Jasvir) injured, the team has gone down. A team should not depend on one player. They did not go for the Services players and that’s surprising.’’


U Mumba’s defence keeping them in contention



Last year’s winner U Mumba skipper Anup Kumar got his friend Rakesh Kumar into the team for season 3. “It was a strategic move because U Mumba knew that four players will be away for the SAF Games. Rakesh took charge, when Anup, Vishal Mane, Surender Nada, Mohit Chillar were away during the Kolkata leg of the league. He in fact led from the front. He was very good in defence. U Mumba won two and tied one in the Kolkata leg. There has not been much of skill difference noticed this season, except the “Dubki’’ by Pardeep. But teams that have a good defence are doing well. What this means is good raiders alone cannot win you a match. A team needs a good defence system operating to defend the leads given by the raiders,’’ said Bhavsar.