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What you thought you knew

Top five myths about kabaddi that MUST be busted before Pro Kabaddi League

With less than six months to go for the second season of the biggest, most ‘pro’ extravaganza, it is time for us to revisit the popular myths you might be harbouring in your mind about the sport. Time to clear the cobwebs and know more!

1. It’s only played in India and around

Thanks to its ancient roots in the Mahabharat and the subsequent rise in the sub-continent, many are under the impression that kabaddi is played and known about only in South Asia. Sure, it’s most popular in the region but also know that it is played in more countries than you can imagine: England and Canada are big proponents, Japan has a rising kabaddi culture (U Mumba also has signed a Japanese player, one of three foreigners), France and Germany are members of the IKF (International Kabaddi Federation) and so are Norway, USA and Australia! Expectedly, kabaddi is one of the most competitive sport categories at the Asian Games.

2. It requires a proper playground

You might demand a big sand-put or a dusty play area of decent size if challenged to play kabaddi, but truth is that you just need 13x10 metres if you’re a guy and 12x8 if you’re a female kabaddi player. Formal kabaddi tournaments have a play field and a ‘sitting block’ two metres away from the end lines. But if you opt for a kabaddi face-off with a friend or foe to settle a deal or old scores, you could do it right in your backyard. There’s a reason why Mumbai loves its kabaddi and dozens of neighbourhoods have their own teams, often squaring off with other teams from the city. In a space-crunched world, not many sports besides kabaddi offer the entertainment and agility these days!

3. It’s meant for hefty men and wrestlers

Admit it, the mention of kabaddi gets you to imagine big, burly men, perhaps smeared with mud prancing upon each other’s territories. While it’s true that players with a better muscle strength and a larger build often have an upper hand (quite literally!) in kabaddi, it is not a necessity to win. A must-have is agility and flexibility more than anything else. Yes, there are weight restrictions to categorise the men from the boys (in junior tournaments), just like in wrestling, but of course there is no minimum weight requirement!

4. It is all body, no mind

Taking that point further, let’s also demystify that kabaddi, like most other sports is more about the mind than the body. When a pro raider enters the opponent’s territory, he has in his mind a viable strategy to touch and dart back without being thwarted. In competitive tournaments like the Pro Kabaddi League, much will depend on knowing the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. Timing and positioning is of essence too, and the coach and captain’s brains work most actively in this department. Lastly, to put another nail on this myth, if you are big and burly but do not have the required reflexes to take your strategy forward, those muscles will be a liability.

5. It is not a spectator-friendly sport

For those of us sensitised and grown up watching bat and ball with cheerleaders in the past few years, the question of ‘how entertaining is this sport’ might arise. For starters, unlike cricket and football’s 180 minutes and 90 minutes respectively, kabaddi just has 20 minutes x 2 halves, making it a game in under 45 minutes. That’s quarter of an hour’s exhilarating action, reaction, drama, emotion and sometimes, tragedy. Professional players come prepared with years of experience and toning of their bodies and minds, and it is purely a sight to watch a raider skilfully wriggle out of his opponents’ grip or a bunch of grown men hand-holding to overpower a raider. Moreover, unlike other ground sports, kabaddi is watched from close range – you could very well watch their players’ jubilations and anguishes. To add some meat to this point, here are some Federation figures on tournament attendance in the past few years: The Junior National Championships Final in Baroda in 2011 witnessed 20,000 spectators, and 32,000 in Hyderabad. Last year in Mandya, Karnataka, the Senior National Champs played amidst a record crowd of 50,000! Need we say more? Go buy your tickets as soon as they’re available!

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