In season 7, Rishank Devadiga pocketed 77 points, far from his best-ever of 170 in season 5. (UP Yoddha/Twitter)
In season 7, Rishank Devadiga pocketed 77 points, far from his best-ever of 170 in season 5. (UP Yoddha/Twitter)

'We managed to survive, knew it will not last for a long time': UP Yoddha's Rishank Devadiga on pandemic - Exclusive

  • UP Yoddha raider Rishank Devadiga, in an exclusive chat with Hindustan Times, gave an insight into what it was like to deal with such unprecedented times.
By Shivansh Gupta, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JUL 08, 2021 09:30 AM IST

The coronavirus pandemic, irrespective of every parameter of social status, took a toll on the financial conditions of millions of people. From layoffs to pay cuts; organizations, businesses, and employees suffered a great deal. This list would be incomplete without mentioning sportspersons, who were forced to remain behind the four walls of their house. If they belonged to, in comparative terms, a lesser popular sport, it was worse.

Unfortunately, kabaddi happens to be one of the sports, and the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) players, happen to fall in the same category.

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It is a well-known fact that most PKL stars hail from humble backgrounds and it is only through the league that they receive a majority of their finance and recognition. Hence, one can only begin to imagine their plight upon realizing that the three-month-long league did not take place for almost two years.

UP Yoddha raider Rishank Devadiga, in an exclusive chat with Hindustan Times, gave an insight into what it was like to deal with such unprecedented times.

"Pro Kabaddi [League] helped all the players a lot on the financial front but because of the pandemic, it became difficult for every one of us. But we managed to survive in this situation because we knew it will not last for a long time. Before Kabaddi resumes, everything will be normal," expressed Devadiga.

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Players were not only hard-pressed for money during the lockdown but also training and fitness. Since most training facilities, including the gyms, were closed, it became difficult for the players to maintain fitness. However, they managed to improvise when they needed to.

"It was very difficult (to maintain fitness) initially. After the lockdown happened, there were no resources available and everything was shut down. There was no gym or practice ground. At first, I thought it would only last for some days but it went on for a long time. That's when I decided to set up a personal gym, so I purchased the required equipment. For the last one a half years, I have been training at my personal gym. I have a trainer and a nutritionist with me and they keep on guiding me.

"Moreover, The Kabaddi Fit Challenge was an exceptional program because, after a long time, all the players enjoyed this program. There was no interaction between any one of us for a long time. So, it was a good initiative. There was some intense training that happened," explained the India national team member Devadiga.

The Maharashtra-born has been a kabaddi player since college days. His style is attacking and over the course of his PKL career, he has become a 'Do-or-Die' raid specialist. He racked up the highest 'Do-or-Die' raid points tally for U Mumba in Seasons 2, 3, and 4 and for U.P. Yoddha in Season 5.

When asked about the secret to a successful 'Do-or-Die' raid and the start of this journey, he said: "The secret is very simple. You always need to be calm and focused during do-or-die raids. In fact, from the time I started playing Pro Kabaddi [League] when I was training under Anup Kumar, he always believed that I could do the do-or-die raids. Even during practice, I used to take on challenges. The coaches and the captain believed in me. From there the journey of do-or-die raid started."

Twenty-seven-year-old Devadiga loves the limelight. After all, for kabaddi players, it's hard to come by as the awareness around the domestic and national-level tournaments is still inadequate and the three months of PKL are their glory does. Does Devadiga feel the pressure or enjoy the challenge? He remarked:

"Three months of the league are hectic and we are under the scanner each day - sometimes it's a good day and sometimes bad. But I have always been grounded, and the only way I think, to stay in the game is to not drop the ball. In short, never give up. The adrenaline rush I get while practicing and staying fit is incomparable - that's what keeps me going. Fans who love kabaddi look forward to seeing something new each year, and as athletes, we train through the year to make that happen for them, the team, and ourselves."

The Yoddhas had a good season 7. They finished third in the league stage only to be knocked out by Bengaluru Bulls in Eliminator 1. As for Devadiga, he pocketed 77 points, far from his best-ever of 170 in season 5. But a new season, as they say, will bring in a new challenge and Devadiga remains optimistic of a good show in season 8.

"We have a good team and we have a set of good young players. For the past three seasons, UP Yoddha have been performing, Initially, we did not perform but we came back later on in each and every situation. That is what I am happy about. Winning and losing is just a part of the game. This season, we would look forward to winning," Devadiga concluded.

The final schedule of PKL 8 is yet to be officially announced.

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