Bengal Warriors Jang Kun Lee is on outlier. In the Pro Kabaddi League where Indians hold sway, the South Korean raider is one of the rare foreign players, along with a handful Iranians, to have become a regular feature for his team. By contrast, many of the foreign players have only ended up making the numbers for their teams or playing bit part roles.
The PKL is different from an Indian Super League, where the foreign footballers like Roberto Carlos, Nicolas Anelka and Elano Blumer are the biggest crowd pullers. It is also unlike leagues like Indian Premier League (IPL), Hockey India League (HIL) and Premier Badminton League (PBL) where the foreign players are as skilled and sought after as the Indian players on show.
In contrast, Indians are considered technically more proficient in kabaddi. The language constraints also restrict coaches from employing the players from foreign shores in match situations.
However, Lee’s success has belied such excuses.
How important Lee is to his team, Bengal Warriors, became evident when they played against Bengaluru Bulls in a match at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium on Sunday.
Coming onto the pitch in the 16th minute with the scores on 6-6, Lee changed the complexion of the game. At one point, he was the only Bengal player left on the mat, which risked giving away additional points for an all-out. However, in one raid, he claimed three points, taking his team to 11-10 from 8-10.
Bengal went on to lose the match 23-24, but Lee’s five raids had earned them five points.
Bengal coach Pratap Shetty admitted that Lee’s introduction had made all the difference on Sunday. “We knew that or rivals would try and target him at the start of the match. So we kept him o the bench to throw them off. However, the game came alive on his introduction,” Shetty said.
Women’s league in the offing from this season
The Pro Kabaddi League will be launching a small league for women this time around which will run in tandem with the main league. Three teams, Ice Divas, Fire Birds and Storm Queens, will be in contention. Each of these teams will have players who are Arjuna Awardees and have represented India. The women’s league will comprise of eight matches in all.