"AB de Villiers' style of play is an inspiration," says Bengaluru Bulls' star raider Pawan Kumar Sehrawat
The sixth season of the Pro Kabaddi League has played host to some scintillating action with the dubki, flying hand touches and a myriad set of skills proving to manifest as some unmatched entertainment throughout the entire season.
With the mega auctions paving way for a lot of chopping and changing across teams, the youngsters who went under the hammer also emerged as exciting buys, on the back of top performances in the Senior Nationals and other local tournaments that took place ahead of the auction.
One such player, who was on high demand all through the auction and whose services were ultimately purchased for a whopping ₹52.8 lakh is none other than the league's brightest spark this season, Bengaluru Bulls' Pawan Kumar Sehrawat.
The Bulls broke the bank to sign the youngster, who had already plied his trade under coach Randhir Sehrawat but did not have the greatest of seasons in his first two seasons. A move to the Gujarat Fortunegiants in season five saw him spend a lot of time on the bench.
Yet, a dominating show in the Senior Nationals, where he displayed his big bag of tricks fetched him a lucrative contract, one that has seen the Bengaluru Bulls enjoy an unprecedented run with a place assured in the finals of the sixth season.
A major driving factor for the Bulls' tremendous success is undoubtedly Pawan Sehrawat, who has stood tall amongst the best in the business and proudly wears the 'Green Sleeve', with 249 raid points from 23 matches.
The youngster started strong with a dominating 20-point effort against the Tamil Thalaivas, which quite literally set the tone on a personal level and for the team as well. Post that, Sehrawat has been all about simplicity through his raids, yet one that has blazed through the best of defensive units in the competition.
However, simplicity is a term that can hardly be associated with the sparkling youngster. A frog jump over the Patna Pirates or the struggle through the chain tackles to effect a five-point raid on the Fortunegiants, Pawan Sehrawat has enjoyed a breakthrough season that has aided the Bulls to a position of strength.
The 22-year old, in an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda spoke about his top show, his fondness for cricket and about his coach Randhir Singh Sehrawat.
"I am enjoying my performance this season. This power-packed performance is only coming after a few ordinary seasons in the past and it is a good feeling to contribute to the team's success."
A season that started off with a 20-point effort against the Tamil Thalaivas has only continued to bring the best out of young Sehrawat, who rolls back the clock to trace his path to the very beginning.
"I started playing kabaddi eight years back, since the time I was in school (Government School in Bawana). I played school nations, open nationals and also represented my university through the sport."
In most villages in India, scarcity of young children playing a certain sport in the open grounds or even in the smallest of pathways in no surprise. For Sehrawat too, there is no contrast in opinion but claims to be the first 'kabaddi player' in his village.
"When I started playing the sport, I was the only one in my village. Now, with the rise of the sport and the popularity, a lot more youngsters play the sport," as he adds "I started playing as a raider who could defend and would play in the right cover, right corner positions."
Yet, all was not rosy at the start for the star raider as he sheds light on the struggles he had to face in the beginning, as he considered pursuing the sport as a career.
"When I started, my family asked me not to focus on sports since they did not see a future in sports. My father used to support me right from the start but my mother was comfortable once she understood that the Pro Kabaddi League was bound to give me the right sense of direction in life."
The Bulls' stalwart enjoys raiding and hitting the mat but in his free time, indulges in a bit of badminton as well and claims, "Apart from playing kabaddi, I enjoy playing badminton. In my free time, whenever I get the chance I go out to the street or to the court and play a couple of games."
While he enjoys a challenging game of badminton, Sehrawat mentions that his major calling is for cricket. A big fan of the IPL franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore, he is also a fanboy of AB de Villiers.
"I follow cricket quite closely. I love the way AB de Villiers plays and his style is an inspiration. He hosts the ability to play shots towards all parts of the ground and clubbed with his match-winning capabilities, he's one of the best in the world."
Similar to the case of most youngsters who sport their idol' jersey numbers on the kitbag, Sehrawat's famous No.17 too has a little history behind it, which is quite obviously linked to the South African dasher.
"Ahead of the third season, I was given a chance to pick my kit number and since I was a big fan of him and continue to follow his game closely, No.17 was my obvious choice. I have followed all his games, and I am a massive fan of the Royal Challengers Bangalore," he says, while speaking about AB de Villiers.
Sehrawat added: "I also love the playing styles of Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni. Watching the game of cricket has helped me learn a lot and I try and use the techniques from cricket on to the kabaddi mat."
There certainly is no false truth about his fondness for AB de Villiers, going by the way Sehrawat has gone about his raiding, in some serious explosive style. Such has been his dominance, that his skipper Rohit Kumar has been granted some breathing space that has only helped the Bulls' captain to nurture his men.
"Rohit Kumar is like my big brother in the team. He never stops supporting me and always ensures that I am full of confidence during practice sessions and during the match. If in a certain match I am in form, he takes a step back and leaves the job of raiding to me and manages the team."
For a man who has exceeded all expectations and has shut the door on the ghosts of his past, the pressure is bound to play a big role. However, in Sehrawat's case, pressure does not even come into the equation.
"I do not feel any pressure on myself at any time. Since our team is on top and we are playing very well, we have also qualified and the aim is to ensure that the team's strategy is met and we win the game."
With pressure out of the way, raiding is still a daunting task, with some quality defenders making their mark in the history of the league. Sehrawat's claim to fame is the simple algorithm that has fetched him a heap of points this season.
"The biggest challenge is to break the defensive unit of the opposition. There are some excellent players in the league and the main objective for me as a raider is to find the weak spots and get through the defence."
On being quizzed about some of the toughest defenders he has faced, Sehrawat smiled and said, "Fazel Atrachali and Manjeet Chhillar."
Young Sehrawat joined the league during the third season and only narrowly missed out on playing in the same team with his kabaddi inspiration Manjeet Chhillar, who represented the Bulls in the first two seasons of the league.
"Manjeet Chhillar is my inspiration to take up the sport. I would love to contribute as an all-rounder as he does and during practice sessions, I take up the position of the right corner so that I can fine tune my skills as a defender and take bigger steps towards becoming an all-rounder."
For a long time now, Pawan Sehrawat has been highly spoken of, but not more than the praise showered on him by his coach at the Bengaluru Bulls, Randhir Singh Sehrawat. Coach Randhir, under whose tutelage the Bulls have played all six seasons has often had very big praise for the youngster, who does not blink twice before crediting his coach for all his success thus far.
"Randhir sir is like my godfather. Whatever he has done for me, especially my debut with the Bengaluru Bulls and everything that I am today, is all a result of his efforts to push me harder in order to achieve newer goals. Coach Randhir sir gave me a job in the Railways and also earned me a debut in the Pro Kabaddi League for the Bengaluru Bulls."
All said and done, Randhir Singh has certainly groomed a youngster for the future. One who can be expected to make a huge roar for a place in the Indian team in the near future. However, the youngster remains rooted as he plans for the road ahead.
"The primary aim is to win the elusive title," he says as he smirks and adds, "I work in Delhi, and since I work on a sports quota, life is compact. A signature to mark my presence in the office will then be followed by some fun in Delhi and watching a host of movies!" he signs off, as he prepares for the massive challenge of keeping up to the lofty standards that have defined him thus far.