American football landed upon Indian shores with the Elite Football League of India and its first season last year. There were city-based franchises, including teams from Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The Hyderabad Skykings are a new, young team that is looking to make its mark in the upcoming second season of the league and I caught up with their star quarterback, Ronit Banda. 20-year-old Ronit after playing with the Kolkata Vipers in the first season, will be turning out for the Skykings in the second season.
So Ronit, Karthik told me you’re an engineering student, where do you study and what are you into?
Yes, I’m an engineering student, currently in my third year at Arora’s Engineering Institute in Hyderabad. I study Compurter Science there, C.Sc.
Are you a resident of Hyderabad Ronit, or are you here for your studies?
Actually I’m originally from Canada, but yes, I am a resident of Hyderabad.
How did your first interaction with the EFLI happen?
At first, I found the team, the Hyderabad Skykings team. We weren’t a team at first, it became a complete team only this year. Last season I got selected to play on the Kolkata Vipers team and that’s where I played my first season.
My first interaction with EFLI was pretty good, no problems or anything. The salaries were paid out and time, it was good.
Who was it from the Kolkata team or from EFLI that contacted you first?
Well my coach, Praveen Reddy, from the Hyderabad team, he was the man in-charge. There were just 9 players in the team initially, and we were thus merged with some other teams to form the Kolkata team.
When you were first approached to play in the EFLI, what was it that went through your mind? What did you think about this concept?
The whole EFLI thing was about football, so it wasn’t new since when I was in Canada I used to play football regularly there as well as here. So, I knew about the game and the first season last year went pretty well. It was pretty much what I expected it to be, nothing less, nothing more. So, overall yes, it was a good season.
Which was about the question I was going to ask, how long have you been playing football?
When I was in Canada, I played there till 12th grade from 10th grade onwards. The first time was in the United States, where I studied 10th grade before moving to Canada for 11th and 12th grade.
And since joining college, have you continued playing?
Yes, I’ve been continuing playing here. We have practice in the mornings and then we go to college.
Do you also have a college team or anything?
No, we don’t have a college team. The EFLI is the first team I’m playing for India.
So, you’re a quarterback right. Tell us a little bit about how important it is and the position as such in the team.
Actually, being the quarterback is quite a big thing. You have to lead the team and you have to have some leadership qualities and people kind of look upto you for stuff. So yes, its stressful, but being a person who can handle stress and as someone who is patient, I can handle it pretty well.
So yes, you need to have a broad view of the field and play hard, make sure that everyone does the right thing, because if they don’t do the right thing, you kind of lose options in the field.
And also, not everything always goes according to plan, so you kind of have to be on top of the plays and make the necessary changes whenever you’re plans are not going well. I have to communicate with the rest of the team on this, something’s not working according to plan, they have to let me know so that I can change it up.
Let’s say if the defenders are too close to the receivers, I can get them the ball. So I tell them to come inside a little bit more, so that I can throw them the ball. So, little things like that.
Yes, even if you look at the NFL, some of the most famous names are quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Any famous quarterbacks that you idolize or have tried to base your game upon?
Well, not a single player in particular. But I do like Peyton Manning a lot. He is like my idol right now. And also, have you heard of Cam Newton, he’s like my role model. Especially, the running around and how he makes his plays with the ball and all that.
American football, in general, a lot of the game is about gaining yards right. Since the game is new in India, people have found it a little hard to understand this, more than certain other American sports. Could you explain that a little bit?
Basically, the game starts off with the kick-off, just like rugby. And then, the receiver who collects the ball just runs, runs till he gets tackled covering some distance in the process. Wherever he gets tackled, you have to cover 10 yards from that point, and you get four chances. Each chance is called a ‘down’, so you get like first down, second down and so on.
In those four downs, you got to cover 10 yards, which might sound easy, but it really is not because you have got offense and defense. And the quarterback is trying to find the receivers and the running backs are trying to find the gaps to run into, a whole lot of things.
The field is about 110 yards in length, so you have to cover 10, 10 yards and make ground, close to anything between 50 to 60 yards at least to get a touchdown. Most receivers run at least 30 yards and thus, you have to cover the rest, the 80 or 70 yards for a touchdown. That’s a basic overview of the game.