Pro-Kabaddi: Revival of a Classic


By: Harsh Deswal (LTEN)

About three years ago, the thought of Kabaddi being watched by thousands was unthinkable and the idea that the sport would rise to no. 2 only behind cricket would have been laughed off. The perception of this ‘not so glamorous sport’ has changed dramatically since the advent of Pro-Kabaddi League. The chants of “Kabaddi, Kabaddi” are playing on everyone’s mind these days, as Pro-Kabaddi has been rocking many a stadium around the country. Going by this sudden burst of fervor for this game one would naturally be inclined to think it’s a new game that has suddenly burst onto the scene. On the contrary, Kabaddi is a game that has its origins associated with ancient India with a mention or two even in the epic Mahabharata. There are various local versions of Kabaddi played in other countries akin to Indian culture and traditions like in Pakistan, Iran, Bangladesh, and Nepal etc.

Most of us by now are aware of the basics of this game. Still, I would like to enunciate critical points. The International version of Kabaddi consists of two teams of 7 members each, with two halves each spanning 20 minutes, separated by a break of 5 min. The game is played on a synthetic court sized 10×13 m for men and 8×12 m for women. The teams take turns sending a “raider” into the other half. To win a point, the raider must take a breath, hold it, run into the opposing half, tag one or more members of the opposite team, then return to his home half before inhaling again. The raider chants “Kabaddi, Kabaddi, Kabaddi” with his exhaling breath to show the referee he has not inhaled.

Pro Kabaddi League was formed in 2014 taking cue from highly successful IPL. An initiative of Mashal Sports(a Company co-founded by Anand Mahindra and Charu Sharma, with controlling stake of 74% held by Star India), Pro-Kabaddi has been an instant hit with the Indian public and international residents. As per ‘2015 FICCI-KPMG Report’ the first season in 2014 had a viewership of around 435 Million in India alone as compared to the 560 Million that IPL 2014 had. To top it all it has been growing at nearly 30% per season. The recently concluded 4th season of Pro-Kabaddi has surpassed all expectations with almost a 200% rise in the sponsorship along with multifold increase in player’s salaries.

Kabaddi has been played at the Asian games since 1990 with Indian team winning all 7 gold medals. The Kabaddi World Cup was first played in 2004 followed by 2007 and then annually from 2010 onwards. India is the undisputed champion winning every edition held so far.

It is really surprising that a game that requires no investment and is a very effective fitness exercise wasn’t very popular in India, barring some villages in Haryana, Punjab, Maharashtra, UP and Andhra. A question that may arise now is how has this game become so popular, even though it has been around for centuries? The answer to this question lies in the fact that Kabaddi is such a gripping, simple and short game, suited to the busy times we live in. All you need is 50 minutes and you would have watched a complete game filled with strategy, power, technique, suspense and what not.

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A look at different teams in Pro-Kabaddi:

Team Name Home Ground Owners
Patna Pirates Patna(Patliputra Sports Complex) Rajesh Shah
Bengaluru Bulls Bengaluru(Kanteerva Indoor Stadium) Kosmik Global Media
U Mumba Mumbai(National Sports Club of India) Unilazer Sports(Ronnie Screwala)
Puneri Paltan Pune(Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex) Insurekot Sports
Bengal Warriors Kolkata(Netaji Indoor Stadium) Future Group(Kishore Biyani)
Telugu Titans Hydrabad: Gachibowli Indoor Stadium &

Vizag: Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium

Veera Sports
Dabang Delhi Delhi, Thyagaraj Sports Complex Radha Kapoor
Jaipur Pink Panthers Jaipur(Sawai Mansingh Stadium) Abhishek Bachchan

Four seasons have been organized thus far, out of which the inaugural season was won by Jasvir Singh’s Jaipur Pink Panthers, the second by Anup Kumar’s UMumba, and the last two by Patna Pirates, courtesy “the Dupki Master” Pardeep Narwal. Adding to the highly successful Pro-Kabaddi, Star Sports will also be organizing the “Kabaddi World Cup” in October this year which is to be broadcasted in over 100 countries worldwide.

Post 2008 our country has seen a lot of advancements in the field of sports be it HIL, IPL, ISL, Pro-Wrestling or Pro-Kabaddi with overwhelming support from Indian Corporate honchos and celebrities. The success of above mentioned leagues cannot only be measured by money inflows but also by the kind of atmosphere they have created for the youth to take up sports as a career option. Now for every  Virat Kohli or M S Dhoni in Cricket, there is a Rahul Choudhary or Pardeep Narwal in Kabaddi and this certainly is a testimony to a glorious future for people going Pro in India.

Kudos….