Pro Kabaddi League: Pune readies for thigh fives as kabaddi fever kicks in

Over 400 boys and 250 girls tested their mettle on the mats on Sunday to grapple their way into the third season of Pro Kabaddi League

pune Updated: Jul 09, 2018 16:29 IST
Pranav Shahaney
Pranav Shahaney
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,Pro Kabaddi League,selections
The response from women has been spectacular in both seasons and there were a number of talented players for the trials of season three at Balewadi Sports Complex.(HT PHOTO)

While kabaddi may not be an Olympic sport just yet, it has only been growing in popularity among the youth of the country for the past several decades. It is a game that test one’s strength, stamina and sharpness and is played by both genders in the best of spirits.

With the Pro Kabaddi League taking the hype of the sport to the next level, it wasn’t a surprise when over 400 boys and nearly 250 girls flooded the weightlifting hall at the Balewadi Sports Complex from 9 am on Sunday for the trials of the Pune League Kabaddi season 3, which will commence on the 19th of this month (July).

Players from all age groups attended the trials and packed the Balewadi Sports Complex. (HT PHOTO)

After enjoying two successful seasons, the response received for the third edition was second to none as players of clubs from the city as well as a number of neighbouring places, such as Amravati, Ambegaon, Junnar and Khed, participated in the trials. Players were given around ten minutes to showcase their skills while a panel of 20-25 selectors kept an eye on their every move. A total of six teams for both boys and girls will be formed and each team will comprise of 12 players each.

Rohini Gusavi, a selection official for the tournament, explained the scope of the sport in the city and gave insights on the competition. She said, “Creating a group of 14 players, including a manager and a coach, is ideal for the players as they’re given an opportunity to learn from experienced veterans and can also pick up a few things from their teams. All the coaches here have played kabaddi at a national level, so they will be the right mentors for the players.”

The trials commenced at 11 am on Sunday, with a separate mat allocated for boys and girls. Selectors were seated on the edge of the two courts while match officials who also played the role of selectors took charge of the different matches that took place. A number of former national-level kabaddi players made it a point to attend the trials and gave their inputs on different players.

Vikas Kale, Pro Kabaddi League player, was also in attendance as he officiated men’s selections. Taking a break from his responsibilities, Kale sat down with Hindustan Times and explained what he was looking for in the players as a selector and how such leagues are helping the sport reach out to the public.

“We pay attention to the player’s skillset and his/her body language. We give each player two to three chances to express their skills and if everything is perfect, we make a note of it. We can immediately find out who all have been practicing every day as their fitness is at a completely different level, which helps them stand out from the rest. The scope of the sport is very high, especially in places like Pune, but players and the public need to be educated about it,” said the seasoned kabaddi campaigner.

Players from all age groups attended the trials and packed the hall to the rafters. The organisation of the event was carried out seamlessly and the quality of the players was impeccable. A number of unearthed talents were given a platform to showcase their skills and the selectors now have a tough task on their hands to narrow it down to 72 players.

Keeping the competition open to all age groups also gives a number of up and coming players the opportunity to test their mettle against veterans, who have been playing the sport for over two decades. Thus, it helps them gauge where they stand against experienced performers and what needs to be done under the guidance of their coaches to elevate their game to the next level.

Women ready for the fight

With a number of female coaches and selectors on board, the Pune League Kabaddi organisers have ensured that women are well-informed and encouraged to take up the sport on a professional basis as India has the world’s best kabaddi team. The response from women has been spectacular in both seasons and there were a number of talented players for the trials of season three as well. The sport has certainly grown by leaps and bounds in the female category and now, the gulf in numbers between the two genders is not as huge as it once was.

What players have to say

Shradda Chavan, kabaddi player: “The competition here in Pune is very tough, so we have to be extremely good to be selected. It is good in a way as it keeps us on our toes. The selection process here is very systematic and it gives each player the platform to express their skills. Even the league as a whole is a good passage for the younger players to get into the sport.”

Sanket Pilane, kabaddi player: “I have been practicing for the trials for several weeks and am very happy with my performance at the trials. I know I had to work very hard to ensure that I get selected at any cost and hopefully, I do get picked. They mainly tested our resilience here and checked how good we were after being caught in a hold; whether we could fight our way out. They also kept an eye on our raiding techniques. Playing in the league last season, I know how competitive and exciting the prospect is and I cannot wait to be a part of it again.”

Kavita Alhat, coach: “The primary aim of the tournament is to promote the sport of kabaddi and give youngsters everything they need to become good players in the future. We have to ensure that they’re following the right diet as well as a number of them have the strength to compete. So, we have to make sure they’re eating the right things. Another thing is that many of the players play in the mud instead of the mat. The two surfaces are very different and it’s important that they train on the mat. Therefore, we’re here to provide the facilities and knowledge about such things.”

‘League is an avenue for youngsters to make it big’

Ravindar Andekar is the secretary of the Pune zilla parishad. (HT PHOTO)

Ravindar Andekar is the secretary of the Pune zilla parishad. He helps in organising sports tournaments across Pune, including the Pro Kabaddi League. He’s ensures that the selectors are at ease and have all the facilities available prior to the trials. Excerpts from his interview with Pranav Shahaney.

How has been your journey with the Pune league kabaddi so far?

We’ve been hosting the trials for the past three years and the competition has been a success. For the past two years, the semi-finals and final has been telecast on TV and even this year, it will be shown on the Jai Maharashtra channel. This gives players an incentive to give it their very best as they know they will be broadcast live on TV and will give them the feeling of being a professional player.

What is the selection procedure for players?

We have a panel of national and international level players who are acting as selectors and officials. So everyone knows there will be no compromises in the selection process. The players participating here idolise a number of them, so the opportunity to showcase their skills in front of them is something we’re looking to provide. Once the players are picked, they will undergo a training camp with their respective teams from July 11. This well help them in bonding with the team and will also give the coaches enough time to drill their philosophies into the heads of the players.

What benefits will the players get from playing in the league?

Every player participating in the competition will be given their own kit and mat shoes. There is a cash reward of Rs 1.5 lakh for the winning team, Rs 75,000 for the second-placed team and Rs 50,000 each for the third and fourth-placed teams. Every player, regardless of their team’s performance, will get cash benefits of Rs 500 minimum. The good players will be then approached for professional contracts as a number of top officials from the country will be keeping an eye on budding individuals.

What is the scope of the sport in the city?

Popularity of kabaddi is on an all-time high in the city. There are 25 women’s teams all around Pune and an impressive 120 teams for men. We have people who have taken up the sport before even joining school, so the interest is thriving from a very early age. We have players coming here from different corners of the city, travelling long distances because they are so passionate about the sport. Also, with us being in our third year, the glamour has only been on the rise and word is spreading to a large number of people.

Diet of a pro kabaddi player

• Breakfast comprises of eggs, juices and a few cereals primarily. In addition to this, to add flavour to the meal, items such as dosa, milk or fruits can also be consumed.

• Lunch diet must be rich in protein and chapattis should be consumed with eggs, meat or paneer along with dal. Milk is also essential and must ideally be consumed with every meal.

• During the day, fruits like bananas can be consumed to keep the players going in between training sessions.

• Dinner routines are similar to the lunch ones, but must not be too heavy on the stomach. Butter and ghee are essential parts of their diet.

• Ideally, every kabaddi players must consume 10,000-12,000 calories a day.

First Published: Jul 09, 2018 16:29 IST