A fast bowler who became a left corner defender: the journey of Gujarat Fortune Giants' Sachin Vittala
If one was to travel close to 360km from Bengaluru towards the picturesque seashores of Mangalore, one of Karnataka's biggest attractions, they are bound to find scores of young children laughing and indulging themselves in a game of cricket in the vacant grounds of Moodabidri, a town in Mangalore city.
However, one can also observe a group of young kids, decked in shorts and loose shirts brawling on a rectangular-shaped space of mud, sweating under the sweltering heat in an approach to emulate the stars of the Pro Kabaddi League.
One such youngster, who tried his hand at nipping out wickets but then slowly shifted to the fast-paced game of kabaddi is Gujarat Fortune Giants' left corner defender Sachin Vittala, who has slowly but steadily also managed to flood the Fortune Giants' Instagram account with numerous pictures of him in action as well.
A left corner defender who plies his trade for Karnataka in the domestic scene, Vittala has already played in the second season of the Pro Kabaddi League, for the Puneri Paltan. However, what is striking is the fact that he played as a raider, and not as a defender.
This season, Vittala was picked by the Gujarat Fortune Giants for a sum of ₹20 lakh and has cemented his place in the team, with some crucial tackles in the duration of the sixth season.
The 28-year old, who will be turning 29 on January 7, 2019, spoke to Sportskeeda in an exclusive interview about the influence of PKL on his life, his shift from cricket to kabaddi and the path ahead for him post the league.
"This is my second season in the Pro Kabaddi League. In the previous season (second season with the Puneri Paltan), I was scared to play but now I have gained a lot more confidence. Every match feels like the same and I have settled into a positive atmosphere at the Pro Kabaddi League."
Vittala is a towering presence in the trio of brothers to his parents, and with an elder brother to look up to and a younger brother to teach, Vittala claims that his inclination towards kabaddi has seen him approach life in a different manner.
"My younger brother also took up the sport but quit playing and has now settled in Dubai. The previous year, our family was burdened with financial issues. I started kabaddi to join a university through sports quota and completed my B.Com degree from Alva's College in Moodabidri."
Hailing from Moodabidri in Mangalore, Vittala mentions that his primary calling was cricket ever since childhood and kabaddi came calling only once he reached the high school level.
"In my village back in Mangalore, cricket is a craze. My family always insisted that I look for a career in cricket since kabaddi did not have too much scope. Now, with my recognition from kabaddi, a lot of people applauded my choice to focus on kabaddi as a career."
With most of his childhood spent in Mangalore, Vittala claims that he was a very good fast bowler and the transition from cricket to kabaddi was pretty seamless since his skills from the cricket field could be used on the kabaddi mat which also saw him playing a big part in his team's All-India University gold medal after a dry period of 25 years.
"I played stitch cricket at Alva's College in Moodabidri. As a fast bowler, the primary requirement is to run fast. That skill which I possessed in cricket I have brought on to the mat, along with my love for fitness that has helped me move quickly on the mat."
When quizzed on the impact of the Pro Kabaddi League on his lifestyle, Vittala does not think twice as he links the answer all the way back to his family.
"A lot of my relatives are excellent cricket players but have not seen any change in their life. For me, my participation in the Pro Kabaddi League has given me a new entity and a lot of recognition as well."
Although 28 years of age, Vittala's swift movement on the mat has fetched him showers of praise from coach Manpreet Singh but the corner defender claims that he has more to offer than just a few tackles on any given day.
"I started off as a very good raider who could affect a couple of useful tackles. Now, I have shifted my focus toward only defending and in the local circuit, I play for Vijaya Bank in Bengaluru and whenever the opportunity comes, I take up the raiding duties as well."
While most corner defenders have most of the tackling duties in the teams, Vittala deals a little bit with the strategy of the Fortune Giants and claims that he would love to contribute a lot more, when it comes to tackles and points on the board from his side.
"The strategy in the team is such that when Sunil and Parvesh are on the mat, the onus is on them to go for the tackles. At times when there are less than four men or so, Ruturaj takes up the responsibility and when there is a chance for a bonus point for a right raider, I generally go for the tackles."
Sachin Vittala has a wealth of experience at the local level and has played a vast majority of his kabaddi under Karnataka's coach BC Ramesh, but claims that Ramesh and Manpreet Singh, Vittala's coach at the Fortune Giants cannot be placed on the same yardstick of comparison.
"Manpreet Singh is an excellent coach with an aggressive approach and has close to 2-3 years of experience. I have faced Manpreet Sir in the local matches when he used to play for ONGC and I played for Vijaya Bank. Coach BC Ramesh Sir, on the other hand, has a wealth of experience and is also an Arjuna Awardee. Both coaches are very different in terms of coaching style."
Having earned a spot in the Pro Kabaddi League, Vittala does not blink twice as he is asked about his inspiration on taking up the game and says,
"Rakesh Kumar is my inspiration!" as he adds, His all-round skill earned him a big name and I would love to get to that pedestal one day. I did happen to meet him once during a match and it was a very special moment for me."
Similar to the case of most players who have been given the chance of a lifetime to make a name from the Pro Kabaddi League, Sachin Vittala too credits the lucrative league for giving him a lot of recognition after his exploits in the league.
"The Pro Kabaddi League has completely changed my life. A lot of people approach me to ask for selfies and I am also invited for many functions as a guest, it is a very special feeling to get such recognition."
With some strong shows in the sixth season that have earned him a big name in the kabaddi fraternity, Sachin Vittala hopes to only perform better on the local stage, dream bigger and one day, represent the Indian team as well.