Pro Kabaddi League 2017 Season 5: From local club to the Pro Kabaddi mat, the inspiring journey of Bengaluru Bulls rookie Harish Naik
The fact that the Pro Kabaddi League has given genesis to a galaxy of upcoming stars is no small truth. The cash-rich league has given some special talents from small states in India a new lease of life by providing them a global stage to hone their skills.
With the sport of Kabaddi playing an important role in Indian history, the need to keep the game's spirits alive has only gone up many a fold, bringing along with it fresher and young talents to learn and produce on the mat.
One such man who has made an impact on the Pro Kabaddi League at a very young age is Harish Naik, a talented raider from a small district in Karnataka who has already made his name as a bright star for the future with his crucial raids for the Bengaluru Bulls in the past two seasons.
Sportskeeda got an opportunity to catch up with the youngster and speak to him about his inclination toward the game and what it means to be sharing the same air with the great players in the league.
Q. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood and how you were first inclined toward the game?
As a kid, my first love was cricket and I played for hours every day hoping to make it become a famous cricketer. But then, I switched to playing kabaddi when I was aged about 16 and was studying in 10th standard. I was born to a very supportive family and being born in a joint family, I enjoyed all the support I got.
I completed my primary education (1st - 7th standard) from Hadeen Govt. School and then shifted to Belke Govt. High School until 10th standard. I used to move around a lot with my friends and the game caught my attention when I was in 10th standard.
When I was in 10th, I joined my first club back then in my village called the Sarpanakatte Club where I enjoyed playing. Soon enough, I moved to the Sports Authority of India where I got a scholarship seat to pursue my Pre-University education and since then the game has given me a lot of recognition.
Q. What was your first reaction when you got your first call from the Bengaluru Bulls in season 4? How did you feel?
I was thrilled when I got my first call from the Bengaluru Bulls. Until last year, I had been playing at the state level and had also represented my team at the nationals.
In addition to this, I had also played alongside Shabeer Bapu for the State Bank of Mysore and was performing consistently.
When I got the call from the Bulls, I could not sit idle. I was thrilled to bits and was very excited for the season ahead.
Q. Considering that you are taking part in such a huge league with a high demand for fitness, is there any strict fitness plan that you follow apart from the team's regime?
Yes, I make sure that my physical fitness is always the main concern since it is imperative for a Kabaddi player to be fit for every game.
When it comes to physical exercises, I indulge myself in a countless number of sprints and push-ups, apart from the regular stretching and team exercises.
Diet-wise, my food includes consumption of a lot of cashew nuts and eggs, both of which are essential for my regime.
When it comes to the team schedule, the coach makes sure that all the players follow the schedule which is generally laid out a day before. Gym sessions are held in the morning twice a week while practice matches are played out in the evening.
Twice a week, the whole team takes a swim in the pool, one of my favorite things to do!
Q. Do you look up to someone as a role model in the PKL?
As I said earlier, I have played alongside Shabeer Bapu for the State Bank of Mysore and I love the way he picks up points at ease. Even on the mat, his confidence helps me a lot and he's a player I idolize.
Q. How much of an influence has Rohit Kumar been on your style of play?
As a captain, Rohit Kumar is the perfect man to lead the team. He's a very calm man and always has some tips for me. Being a superstar himself, his down to earth attitude is something to marvel at.
During practice, I generally play on his team and take up the do-or-die raids apart from the normal raids and owing to this, I have taken up the do-or-die duties during match time as well.
Q. How have you adapted to Randhir Singh's coaching strategies according to your skillset? What does he tell you ahead of sending you in for a do-or-die raid?
Randhir Sir is a very knowledgeable man when it comes to understanding the intricacies of the game. Ahead of sending me in for a do-or-die raid, he tells me which defender to try and target and I try to play according to his instructions.
During practice as well, he is always giving us tips on how to improve and that has helped my game a lot.
My strengths lie in a running hand touch and the bonus point, two skills that I have honed as part of my skillset.
Q. What are some of your hobbies? Who are some of your best buddies in the Bulls camp?
My hobbies include what a young man would have. I love watching TV, I love swimming and most importantly, I love to sleep!
Mahender Singh is one of my best friends in the team. We spend a lot of quality time together and cherish a lot of memories.
Q. How much of an influence has PKL had in your life? What is your ultimate goal?
Without a shadow of a doubt, the Pro Kabaddi League has given me a new lease of life. The League has given me an extended identity and has given me more respect. More people now recognize me thanks to the PKL and that makes me feel good.
Currently, I am pursuing my BA degree from Holealur Govt College apart from taking part in the PKL and once I am done with that, my ultimate goal is to don the Indian team jersey and bring laurels to the country!
Q. Finally, can you name the top three players who you think are the strongest in the league?
Of course. (Takes a pause).
Raider - Rohit Kumar, Defender- Ravinder Pahal, All-rounder - Manjeet Chhillar
Finishes off with a super three-point answer!