The Kabaddi lakhpatis who’ve raided poverty
A welder, a farmer and a sugarcane factory worker are today’s kabaddi superstars.
A group of men circle in on a tall, muscular player who dodges them to leap into his side of the court. To earn points in kabaddi, defenders and raiders (equivalents of forwards in football or hockey) don’t just rely on agility and strength alone: they also draw on the lessons that life has taught them.
Adake’s lucky break came when his uncle, a kabaddi player, invited him to Mumbai for a trial with the Sports Authority of India. “I was selected on the second attempt,” he recalls. A kabaddi stipend with Mahindra for Rs 5,500 a month was followed by a call-up from the national team before he caught the eye of Pro Kabaddi League scouts. Last year, Dabang Delhi offered him a contract worth Rs 10 lakh.
The son of a marginal farmer in the Kulathur village near Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, Kumar says kabaddi is a way of life in rural India’s mud courts. “Thootukudi, our district, has a tradition of producing national-level players. When I was growing up, I looked up to Arjuna Award winner Perumal Ganesan, who was part of the team that won the gold medal at the 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games.”