Kabaddi: India

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2019/ The lifestyles of India's kabbadi millionaires

Sep 17, 2019: NDTV

Kabaddi has undergone a glitzy makeover through the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), creating a new group of sports stars.

Siddharth Desai grew up in humble surroundings but now he's living the life of a millionaire sportsman, driving a souped-up jeep and taking selfies with fans -- and it's all thanks to kabaddi. The ancient game has undergone a glitzy makeover through the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), creating a new group of sports stars in a country traditionally obsessed with cricket. Kabaddi -- which roughly translates to "holding hands" -- is a tag-meets-rugby contact sport widely believed to have originated in the South Asian nation thousands of years ago.

Siddharth and his elder brother Suraj Desai went from playing kabaddi in the dust in their village in the state of Maharashtra, to wrestling on indoor mats in front of a TV audience of millions.

"Even if you work for 50 years of your life, you will never get a financial benefit like you do while playing one year of PKL," the 27-year-old raider, the proud owner of an orange-and-black 4x4 off-roader, told AFP.

"Nobody knew me before season six but now people want to touch me, media wants to interview me. People want to take selfies with me."

The franchise-based professional league was launched by Star Sports in 2014. Players were auctioned, like in the hugely successful Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket tournament, with businesses and Bollywood stars paying big money players for their city or state-based teams.

Siddharth, who was paid $50,000 last season with U Mumba, was snapped up by Telugu Titans for a record $201,444 this year. Together with endorsements, kabaddi has made him a wealthy man.

The previously shy village boy now dreams of buying a new house where his parents and his married brother can enjoy the finer things in life.

"After the start of Pro Kabaddi everyone is looking at kabaddi at a career option," said Siddharth. "Now I like to go indulge in my hobbies which include playing the guitar and music. I will probably get a tattoo done."

'We got them new haircuts’

Kabaddi is a highly physical sport that requires teams to collect points by sending a raider to the rival side to tag an opponent before returning to safety.

Traditionally, raiders chant "kabaddi, kabaddi" to prove they are only using one breath, although in the modern game they usually breathe freely.

Defending teams can also collect points by preventing the raider from escaping their half of the court, often with body-slamming tackles and vicious ankle-wrenches.

It's an entertaining sport for TV and promoters have completed the look with slick, Bollywood-style presentation of the competition and players off the court.

Keen to follow the glamorous IPL, PKL's organisers set about re-vamping the images of the players, who mostly hail from Indian villages. "We groomed them, got them new haircuts and trained them on how to be on TV," PKL commissioner Anupam Goswami told AFP.

"We also made sure that the field of play looks slightly aspirational."

The success of the first few seasons led Chinese smartphone-maker to VIVO sign up as PKL's title sponsor in a reported $42 million deal. The tie-up made PKL the second-largest league in India in terms of sponsorship money after the IPL, which also has VIVO as their lead sponsor.

Breath-taking defeats

One of the PKL's foreign stars, U Mumba's former Iran captain Fazel Atrachali, says the league has given players the chance to have a lucrative career.

"When you have money in your sport then your mind is not busy on other things," Atrachali told AFP.

Goswami said that, putting aside the massive salaries of top players in sports like basketball or football, annual wages of $100,000 for a kabaddi player are "very respectable".

"The bottom salary is seven lakh ($9,860 per season) which is a salary of a mid-level occupation in our country," he added.

While the PKL has prospered, it has been a different story for India's men's and women's international teams who have suddenly hit hard times.

At last year's Asian Games, India's men suffered the second and third international defeats in their history -- the previous one being to South Korea at the 2016 World Cup -- as the seven-time champions missed out on gold for the first time.

Iran, which also claims to be the birthplace of kabaddi, went on to clinch their maiden gold. India's women also lost to Iran in the final.

It sparked soul-searching among India's kabaddi hierarchy. But PKL technical director E Prasad Rao said he was confident the problems will be resolved and that India would soon return to the top.

Asian Kabaddi Championship


Asian Kabaddi : India beat Iran to reclaim title

Busan:India reclaimed the Asian Kabaddi Championship title after beating Iran 42-32 in the final. This was India’s eighth title in the last nine editions played so far, while Iran won the title once in 2003. India won all five matches in the league stage and topped the points table. The next big challenge for the Indian kabaddi teams will be the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.

Kabaddi World Cup


2016: India beat Iran 38-29 in finals

The highest earning kabaddi players in India in 2016.
The Times of India

Dhananjay Roy, INDIA ARE CHAMPIONS, Oct 23 2016 : The Times of India

Raider Thakur Leads Hosts To Kabaddi World Cup Triumph

Minutes before the semi-final against Thailand in Oct 2016, Anup Kumar, the captain of the Indian team, told a TV presenter that the hosts were about to take the mat in what was going to be their biggest test of the Kabaddi World Cup. Surely , Anup, the battle-scarred veteran, was being modest as one saw his side simply sweep past their opponents to set up the finale against Iran.

Now, this was the contest Anup would readily agree ­ and no one would dispute him either -to being his team's biggest test in the competition. After all, Iran are the side that has consistently been challenging India's supremacy over the years.

And as expected, the match had all the ingredients of a worthy final, with India eventually winning the trophy 38-29. This was India's third straight triumph in the tournament, with Iran finishing runners-up on each occasion.

Raider Ajay Thakur, who had been the tournament's best raider, answered some desperate cries and was the top scorer with 12 points. He finished the tournament on 64 points.

Unlike the match against Thailand where India were allowed a free run throughout the 40 minutes, they were up against the best defensive unit in the competition, who had held themselves back right until the semis against Korea.

And, Iran exercised a vicelike grip on proceedings in the opening 20 minutes when they allowed Anup's boys absolutely no room for any extravagance.Defender Fazel Atrachali was splendid once again, winning a couple of tackle points.

The Top 5 defenders and raiders in the World Cup, 2016, till the semi-finals
World Cup, 2016: The 5 teams with the highest tackle points; Super 10s;Top 5 highs, till the semi-finals
The teams with the highest raid points, till the World Cup, 2016 semi-finals
Kabaddi team 2016
The Times of India
Kabaddi moves
The Times of India

On the other hand, skipper Meraj Sheykh was at his dangerous best, pulling off some spectacular raids, winning five vital points. At one stage, Iran led 1813 and given their determination, the hosts were always going to find it difficult to claw back.

The true test of Pardeep Narwal's doobkis, Thakur's lightning hand touches and Surender Nada's brilliant ankle holds were put to test, but little of it was on display during this stretch of the contest.

In the 25th minute, however, Thakur brought back some energy into the Indian camp when he had both Atrachali and Sheykh off the mat in one excellent swoop. The scores were 19-16 now and the hosts were back in the mix. Gradually , India stepped up their attack with Thakur leading and with 10 minutes remaining, they had earned a vital three-point lead at 24-21.

Important matches for India, Bangladesh

Top 5 clashes of the World Cup, Oct 21 2016 : The Times of India

India vs S Korea

(October 7), Korea beat India 34-32

As favourites, India were expected to beat Korea and get the tournament off to a rousing start. But, as the eventual result showed, they had not accounted for raider Jang Kun Lee who did the star turn for the Koreans with some dazzling display towards the closing stages and ensured India's downfall.

S Korea vs Bangladesh

(October 13), Korea beat Bangladesh 35-32

As in the upset victory over India, South Korea left it for late against Bangladesh too, before pulling off a sensational win in the very last minute. The result also went a long way in putting them at the top of Group A. This win too was a result of raider Jang Kun Lee's last-ditch heroics

2016 WC: Kabaddi's turning point

Dhananjay Roy, 2016 WC: Sport's turning point, Oct 21 2016 : The Times of India

It's not often that one sees sportsmen in India, who don't wield the willow, getting mobbed for autographs and selfies. But things have been different here, at The Arena, where fans have flocked around the stars during the ongoing Kabaddi World Cup. Players like Anup Kumar, Ajay Thakur, Manjeet Chhillar, Pardeep Narwal and Surender Nada, who were already household names thanks largely to the four seasons of the Pro Kabaddi League, have acquired greater stardom as the tournament has progressed.

What's more, there have been times when these players have been whisked away by security personnel so that they don't get crushed by the large number of fans pleading for their attention. And, the glitzy setting in which the matches have been staged each evening has only added to the profile of the tournament.

At the conclusion of the league phase, the best four teams ­ India, Korea, Iran and Thailand ­ have progressed to the semifinals, but the past 14 days have provided ample proof that given the right support, there are quite a few teams that can challenge the dominance of the heavyweight kabaddi nations in the coming years.

The International Kabaddi Federation (IKF) has promised to hold the tournament every two years from now, and this initiative will go a long way in not only promoting kabaddi in countries like Argentina, Australia, Poland, the USA, and Kenya, it will also provide India's premier kabaddi league a larger pool to pick their players from. The IKF is also trying hard to find kabaddi a place at the Olympics, and nothing better than well-organised topclass tournaments will help them further their cause.

Meanwhile, at the outset, no one expected some of the weaker teams in the competition ­ Argentina, Australia and USA to dethrone sides like India, Korea and Iran. But, what these fledgling outfits lacked by way of skill and technique, they more than made up by the enthusiasm they showed for the sport and the connect they tried to build with spectators.

While at least three of the semifinalists ­ India, Korea and Iran ­ were expected to stay in the thick of things at the business end of the tournament, Thailand have definitely been the surprise package.

The young side -12 of their 14 players are still pursuing various courses in different universities ­ have been led remarkably by their 24-year-old captain Khomsan Thongkham, who is a trooper in the army .

Kenya and Poland were the other two teams who impressed everyone with their heart for a fight and the African nation was unlucky not to have made it to the semis.Had Japan beaten Thailand on Wednesday by an eightpoint margin, one would have seen Kenya and Iran move up from Group B. Bangladesh, though could have done better in the tournament. But, that was always going to be tough since they were grouped with India and Korea

Pro-kabaddi auctions

2017/ Season Five

See graphic.

Pro kabaddi auctions, 2017; The Times of India, May 23, 2017
The 12 teams shaped up after the first day of auction In Delhi, Kabaddi, 2017; The Times of India, May 22, 2017



Abhishek Bachchan, RING SIDE VIEW - The rise and rise of kabaddi, May 23, 2017: The Times of India

Growing up in India everyone has played kabaddi sometime or the other. Even if someone has not played kabaddi, they are aware of our heritage sport. We have seen it in the movies, and recognise its distinctive chant; `Kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi'. It is a sport which is quintessentially Indian, rooted deep in our culture, and makes us proud at the world stage.

Kabaddi by nature is strikingly simple, yet intriguingly complex. To start playing, it takes nothing at all but to master it, it takes a lifetime. Truth be told, I have my father to thank for the initiation into the sport. He not only taught me how to play kabaddi but, also inculcated in me a deep respect for it. I watch the sport with the enthusiasm of a fan. Kabaddi encourages a unique kind of sportsmanship, be it the ath leticism, team-work, tactical finesse and agility; while at the same time demanding grit, raw power and amazing acrobatics. No sooner has one been initiated as a fan, that the amazing action makes it compelling, even addictive to watch.

Today, the age of kabaddi in Indian sport is upon us.Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) has remarkably renewed the sport and magnificently raised its standing in India and across the world. India now has a new sport to follow and to participate in. It is heartening to see the response the league has evoked from hundreds of millions of fans across the country, and I am overwhelmed by its stupendous success and rapid rise.

I am a proud owner of a franchise. But my role is more than that. The reason I am associated with kabaddi is that I want to contribute to the true development of the sport. I believe all our efforts are making a big difference in taking Kabaddi to a whole new level.Today, I am filled with pride and joy when I sit alongside my family to enjoy a game of Kabaddi.

No success is achieved overnight. For any sport to scale newer heights and be recognized as a standard it requires essential support of not just fans but also collaborative efforts by the entire ecosystem, including the vital task of nurturing new talent. Talent is the backbone of any sport. It is important to cultivate new talent, create opportunities and infrastructure for training and build the sport as a career option.PKL is driving this growth in the right direction, and providing adequate support and world-class training for new talent; to make them ready not just for the league, but also to get them in shape to excel at the international arena.

PKL has spawned interest for the sport across the country. And more interestingly even the urban youth is following the sport. Kabaddi has managed to create a unique appeal in the minds of young sports fans in the country .

I am passionate about fostering a multi-sport India and that makes me proud to be a part of PKL with Jaipur Pink Panthers.

I have been watching and enjoying PKL since its first season in 2014. The league has broken records in terms of viewership, sponsorships and has seen an increasing advent of newer talent from all over the country. I also welcome the new teams who will add to this high-octane season.

I want to tell all my fans to get ready for a new thrilling season of PKL. I am going to be there to cheer for my team.As season five of the league commences, I want each kabaddi fan to be there with me to cheer for our own sport.


The stars of 2018

November 10, 2018: The Times of India

Pro-Kabaddi League, 2018- Highlights
From: November 10, 2018: The Times of India

Pawan Sehrawat’s raiding heroics propel Bengaluru Bulls to the top

He can jump over a sea of defenders, as he raises the heat with his super raids and super 10’s this season. Putting Bengaluru Bulls at the top of the Zone B table, this young raider with 83 raid points in Season VI, is sure to succeed in warding off defenders and taking his team to the playoffs.

Anup Kumar prepares in the pink jersey as U Mumba reunion looms

Perhaps the biggest move in VIVO PKL history is that Anup Kumar is now playing for Jaipur Pink Panthers. A team that were on the lookout for a talisman. A team that needed a talisman who could dominate the mat, as well as coach a young team. Looking fit, dropping the kilos, Anup, continues to draw crowds and has a fan base that keeps growing.

First international coach ushers in a new era

VIVO Pro Kabaddi sees the arrival of its first international coach, Gholamreza Mahmoud Mazandarani, and what an arrival it has been for the Iranian. The unique game style he has brought with him has helped U Mumba display a stellar performance.

Young stars challenge experienced players

It is hard to ignore the young talent that has emerged in season VI of the league. With an average age of 18 – 22, these young guns are pumped to prove their mettle on the mat. They take challenges head on and deliver beyond expectations. They are a force to reckon with and there’s no stopping them.

After a hat-trick, Patna’s dominance is challenged in this competitive league

The early trends would suggest Patna Pirates aren’t quite on track to win a fourth title owing to a competitive season. But one can never write off Pardeep Narwal. A few 8-pointers and a dubki can help the team claim the trophy.

Siddharth Desai, kabaddi’s newest star

Fit, tall, well-built and agile — the emergence of Siddharth has seen the youngster from U Mumba steal the show in every match. He broke the top record and became the fastest player to reach 50 raid points, in his debut season and has a not out percentage of 82.41%. A new generation athlete who takes fitness very seriously.

The younger stars of 2018

Shailendra Awasthi, November 10, 2018: The Times of India

While usual suspects Pardeep Narwal, Rahul Chaudhari, Nitin Tomar and Monu Goyat are displaying their mesmerizing raiding skills, three youngsters have taken the sixth season of VIVO Pro Kabaddi League by storm. With their agility, speed and top-class performance, Siddharth Desai, Pawan Sehrawat and Naveen Kumar are emerging as the new stars in this highly competitive season.

Leading the pack is the 26-year-old Desai. His stellar performance has revived former champs U Mumba, who were lackluster in the previous two seasons. In his debut season, Desai has eclipsed all the established stars, the league has known so far.

With an average of 14 points per match, raider Desai has accumulated 98 points in seven games and is set to own the joint record of the fastest player ever to reach 100 points in PKL history. Currently, Rahul Chaudhary of Telugu Titans holds the record, having achieved the mark in nine matches. The man from Phulewadi town in Kolhapur has already set a new mark in PKL history by reaching the fastest 50 points in just four games.

Sehrawat, 22, who has featured in previous editions of PKL, has suddenly found his groove for the Bengaluru Bulls. After accumulating just 65 points in a total 32 matches in the last five seasons, Sehrawat is flying high and has already logged in 89 raid points off just seven matches at an average of 12.71.

The New Delhi-born Sehrawat, who is known for running-hand touches, has helped his team lead Zone B with 31 points from seven matches. Given his form, the Bulls can now aim to improve upon their best showing in the league, having finished third in the first two seasons.

Bhiwani lad Naveen Kumar has never represented a club before and has the experience of playing in four junior nationals. That has not held him back from leading the Dabang Delhi raiding unit. With 61 points from eight matches, this 18-year-old has raised Delhi’s hopes of a respectable finish after disappointing showings in the last five seasons.

Delhi skipper Joginder Singh Narwal and coach Krishan Kumar Hooda have immense faith in Naveen, who is the only player from Delhi to figure in the top ten scorer’s list. “He has every quality that a raider should have and we are banking on him to reach new heights in the league,” said Hooda.


The stars of Pro Kabaddi’s Season 7

See graphic:

The stars of Pro Kabaddi’s Season 7

New trends

Oct 19, 2019: The Times of India


Defence ruled

Despite strong performances from the individual raiders such as Naveen Kumar, Pardeep Narwal and Pawan Sehrawat, the defences have had a bigger say in the season. Teams have opted for aggressive strategies, often playing with an extra defender, to force the raiders into making a risky move or wait it out till the Do-or-Die raids. In fact, the defenders outdid their numbers from the previous two seasons. At the end of 4 legs, the tackle points average was 20.4 for this season as opposed to 19.7 and 18.1 respectively in seasons 6 and 5. The trend continued and at the end of 11 legs, the tackle points average was 20.1 (19.9 in season 6 and 18.4 in season 5).

Playing in their backyards

Season 7 saw the league return to its key venues — Hyderabad, Jaipur and Bengaluru, enabling fans of these cities to cheer and encourage their respective home teams in their home venues.

Format change

The PKL returned to the monsoon window of July — October for Season 7; from the October — January window of Season 6, that was adopted to adjust to the 2018 Asian games of August — September last year. Mashal Sports, the organiser and all its partners including the teams have worked intensively to keep to this shortened timeline. This season, there is an early start time of 7:30 pm for the first match and the second match begins at 8.30 pm. This is an optimised synchronicity for fans to attend vivo Pro Kabaddi matches in-stadia as well as prime time television. With no zones, the format of the game is double roundrobin with each team playing the other teams twice, which has increased the competitiveness of the league.

Future is bright

Perhaps the best defensive performances of the season have come from the UP Yoddha whose corners — Sumit and Nitesh Kumar — both feature in the top five defenders’ list. Sumit, playing his first season, has been a calm performer in the left corner for the UP side while Nitesh Kumar has followed his breathtaking 100-point season 6, with another stellar showing in the right corner. The young captain, a product of Future Kabaddi Heroes (FKH) programme, has already secured five High 5s this season for the Yoddha’s — a glowing testimony to FKH.

Naveen Kumar’s run of consecutive Super 10s, Surender Gill’s all-round heroics for UP Yoddha and Saurabh Nandal’s performances in the defence for Bengaluru Bulls, all highlight how FKH has created a path for future stars to perform in the biggest league.

Bengal beat Delhi 39-34 to win maiden title

Oct 19, 2019: The Times of India

21:04 (IST) Oct 19 Final score: Bengal Warriors 39-34 Dabang Delhi

21:03 (IST) Oct 19 And, there goes the final whistle. Bengal Warriors are the new champions. They beat Dabang Delhi 39-34 in the final.

21:02 (IST) Oct 19 Just over 30 second to go and Dabang Delhi gather another point. DEL 34-38 KOL

20:59 (IST) Oct 19 Two crucial raid points from Naveen Kumar and Dabang Delhi now desperately looking to narrow the lead. DEL 32-37 KOL

20:56 (IST) Oct 19 Just three minutes to go for the final whistle and Bengal Warriors still maintaining the lead. Delhi looking to catch up as they collect another raid point. DEL 29-36 KOL

20:53 (IST) Oct 19 Naveen Kumar gets a crucial raid point for Delhi just before the . DEL 28-36 KOL

20:48 (IST) Oct 19

Just under six minutes to final whistle and Bengal have a solid eight-point lead. DEL 26-34 KOL

20:45 (IST) Oct 19 Dabang Delhi are all out once again and Bengal Warriors have now extended their lead to 10 points. It's 34-24 in favour of Bengal at the moment.

20:44 (IST) Oct 19 Baldev Singh with an excellent tackle and Bengal Warriors are now performing brilliantly in both attack and defence. Dabang Delhi looking under pressure. DEL 24-29 KOL

20:40 (IST) Oct 19 Vishal Mane with an unsuccessful raid and Dabang Delhi are all out. Bengal Warriors now marching forward with confidence. DEL 21-25 KOL

20:38 (IST) Oct 19 Another successful raid point for Mohammad Nabibakhsh. Bengal now with a two-point lead. DEL 20-22 KOL

20:36 (IST) Oct 19 Dabang Delhi in front once again as Vijay gets a bonus point. DEL 20-19 KOL

20:32 (IST) Oct 19 Mohammad Nabibakhsh with an excellent tackle this time. Chandran Ranjit is out. Bengal open the scoring in the second half. DEL 17-18 KOL

20:30 (IST) Oct 19 Second half begins: Naveen Kumar with an empty raid first up for Dabang Delhi.

20:28 (IST) Oct 19 After a sluggish start , Bengal Warriors have caught up brilliantly. Mohammad Nabibakhsh (7 points) has been the man for Bengal in the first half.

20:26 (IST) Oct 19 Half Time: What an enthralling first half this has been between the two finalists. En epic 20-minute game comes to an end and the score line reads 17-17.

20:21 (IST) Oct 19 Sukesh Hegde with another raid point for Bengal. The match is now tied at 16 all with just under two minutes to go in the first half.

20:20 (IST) Oct 19 Mohammad Nabibakhsh with excellent 2 raid points. Anil Kumar, Ravinder Pahal to go out. Bengal closing in on the gap smartly. DEL 15-14 KOL

20:19 (IST) Oct 19 Anil Kumar gets his running kick on the mark. Rinku Narwal is out for Delhi. DEL 15-10 KOL

20:18 (IST) Oct 19 Just under five minutes to go in the first half. Delhi with a 5-point lead. DEL 14-9 KOL

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