Interview with Pro Kabaddi superstar Rahul Chaudhari: “I started out as a defender”
The Star Sports Pro Kabaddi has given Bijnor boy Rahul Chaudhari sky-high fame and popularity. The Telugu Titans captain is now the first player to amass a humongous 400 raid points in the history of the league.
With his smashing performance on the mat and his dashing looks, the 23-year-old player from Uttar Pradesh has become the poster boy of Pro Kabaddi and has an exceptionally large fan following now. Yet, he remains absolutely grounded and down-to-earth and never stops thanking the fans and the media for the constant support that changed his life. One can readily sense his passion for the sport when he starts about talking it.
During the Kolkata leg of the Season 4, Sportskeeda caught up with the superstar. In an exclusive freewheeling chat, he talks about his early days, his goals and also about his recent acting stint.
1. Tell us a bit about how you got introduced to Kabaddi and how were your initial days.
I used to play Kabaddi in my village (Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh). My elder brother used to play Kabaddi for our village team as a raider. So, I got introduced to the sport because of him some 10 years back.
In the initial days, there was hardly any family support. Our parents would scold both of us and tell us to focus on our studies instead of wasting time on Kabaddi. Subsequently, there was a trial held in our village from Sports Authority of India (SAI) Gandhinagar and I was sent to Gujarat for a training camp.
I actually started out as a defender and gradually became a full-fledged raider. It was there at the camp that I began developing my skills that paved the way for being the player who I am today.
Very soon after that, I got an offer from the Army to play for them. I felt it came too early and I needed more practice. So, I did not join them and later on got to play for Air India.
2. You also brought Uttar Pradesh the Nationals gold last year. That must have been an experience to remember?
Yes, of course. I was encouraged to play the Kabaddi Nationals by my coach. My state Uttar Pradesh had never won any gold in the National Kabaddi Championships before 2015, even though they had clinched the bronze medal multiple times. I captained the UP team to its first Nationals gold at Bangalore last year. It was indeed a great feeling.
3. The Star Sports Pro Kabaddi League has completely changed how the sport of Kabaddi is viewed. How does it feel to get so much support?
At first, when I came to know about the inception of the Star Sports Pro Kabaddi League, I was very excited to show off my skills. But when I talked to players from the senior team before the auction, they told me only the seniors would be selected. While the auction was going on, I prayed hard to God, hoping at least one team will take me. Fortunately, whoever was in the India camp at that time, got selected.
We have got so much support and popularity because of the league that I never ever expected it in my life. I am extremely grateful to Star Sports and the media for the wonderful coverage and the constant support to all players and the sport of Kabaddi. This fame would not have been possible without their efforts.
4. Everybody expects Rahul Chaudhari to always play well after your fabulous performances throughout the four seasons. Do you or your team ever feel any pressure because of it?
Yes, if I get tackled and sit outside, my team feels the pressure and they try for every opportunity to get me back inside. Whenever I am playing, they feel confident so I need to remain on the mat as much as possible for my team.
5. You sustained a head injury during the match (against Dabang Delhi) and yet you came back to lead your team. How did you motivate yourself?
It did not matter whether I was injured. The responsibility to lead the attacks lies mainly on me and also on Sukesh Hegde. Defense is already so good due to Sandeep Narwal, Sandeep Dhull, Jasmer Singh Gulia and S. Mahalingam.
I could not play well in the first couple of matches as I was injured. A doctor was called from Australia to treat my injured right shoulder. Now that I am almost fit, I have got to lead the team at any cost. If our team doesn’t play as expected, then the blame comes to me. If we win, people say it is because I was there in the team.
So, I had to play today despite the injury. My team means everything to me. I always give my 100% for any Telugu Titans match. It feels very nice if we win after all the efforts.
6. Is there any team that you feel is a threat to you or the Telugu Titans?
I feel Bengal Warriors is a threat for me. I have said this before as well. They dive a lot and I get tackled pretty soon by them. Any team that dives a lot, puts me under pressure as I still have a bit of pain in my shoulder. That is the reason why I can’t counter them.
7. What else do you think should be done to help promote the sport of Kabaddi further?
Just like cricket is beamed a lot throughout a day, Kabaddi too should be shown frequently. Like cricket has a separate channel, the sport of Kabaddi too should have one of its own. If you turn the sports page of any paper, you will find news mostly on cricket. So, to make a sport popular, it needs continued coverage from all sections of the media.
8. How would it feel if Kabaddi ever becomes an Olympic sport?
If Kabaddi ever becomes an Olympic sport, I can guarantee that India will bring home the gold.
9. Is there any goal that is left for you to achieve?
The biggest award that a Kabaddi player can get is the Arjuna award. I would love to get it. Another aim is if ever Kabaddi gets included in the Olympics, I would like to represent India.
10. You recently acted in a music video (Dil Mera by Raj Lamba). Share with us about that unique experience.
One of my relatives asked me to act in a music video. I was apprehensive initially as I had never done any shooting before nor did I have any knowledge of it. On his insistence, I did it and it got completed in 2-3 days.
I told them to ensure that the shooting location is not too crowded which helped me to relax and feel confident. The final video turned out to be very good and I liked it.
11. So, if you get any more acting offers after this, would you accept them?
Sure, I will. But my first love is Kabaddi and it is my life right now. Besides that, if I ever get any time, I would definitely consider acting.
12. Do you watch films?
No, I don’t really watch films but I do have a big passion for old songs.
13. Do you have an interest in other sports?
No, I don’t follow other sports much so I don’t have any favourites from other sports.
14. You have a huge female fan following. Any comments on that?
I know that my female fan following is huge. That is mostly because of my performance in Pro Kabaddi. Also, by God’s grace, my looks are not that bad, so that is also another reason I guess.