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Interview with Sonu Narwal: "I love kabaddi, but I enjoy my police duty as well"

Jaipur Pink Panthers raider Sonu Narwal talks about Pro Kabaddi, being a policeman and a variety of topics

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Jaipur Pink Panthers’ Sonu Narwal during a raid

Sonu Narwal, Jaipur Pink Panthers’ new hero in Star Sports Pro Kabaddi, missed the first season of the tournament because of his Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) training. Currently serving the Haryana Police as a DSP, Sonu was part of the Indian kabaddi team, who won the gold medal in the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.

The raider has claimed 29 points in his last 4 matches and won 3 back-to-back best raider awards. While speaking exclusively to SportsKeeda over the phone, Sonu Narwal openly speaks about his kabaddi journey so far.

Here are the excerpts:  

Q. How did you start playing kabaddi?

I stated playing kabaddi in 2004. We used to play in my village, back when I was in school, who I represented in the under 16 and 17 team.

Q. Why did you choose kabaddi as your career option?

I am from Kathura village, which is in the Sonepat district of Haryana. Kabaddi has been very famous in my village for a long time. From there, I decided to build my career in kabaddi.

Q. What kind of support did you get from your family and village?

My family always supported my kabaddi. Actually, there was a Guruji (kabaddi coach), who used to train people in the sport of kabaddi. He advised me and prompted my family to let me join kabaddi because of my height and physique. My Guruji was with me from the start to the end and he supported me a lot. This game was very popular back home because we had many international players from our village.

Q. Do you have kabaddi coaching centres in your village and surrounding areas?

Yes, there are 3-4 former players who give kabaddi coaching in my village.

Q. What is the difference in Star Sports Pro Kabaddi and kabaddi played at other levels?

Star Sports made the game very popular in India. Today, this league is the second highest watched league in India among all sports. Now, everyone has started watching kabaddi. Before, the villagers used to watch kabaddi only when some matches were played in their village, but now the whole country watches this sport.

Q. Do you feel any technical difference in Star Sports Pro Kabaddi and the kabaddi you played before?

Kabaddi has completely changed here in Star Sports Pro Kabaddi. Before we used to play on sand grounds, where there was no one to take care of injuries. Here, we get proper facilities for everything.

Kabaddi has become very defensive now. Before Pro Kabaddi, we were doing 10-20 empty raids, now we have to take a point in the 3rd raid. Defence is very technical here. 

Q. You were not in Pro Kabaddi in the first season. How did you get selected for the second season in Jaipur Pink Panthers?

During the first season, I was busy in my DSP training. That was important for me, so I thought that I will definitely go next year.

My friends from Haryana, who were already playing for Jaipur Pink Panthers, called me and informed me about the trial dates and details of Jaipur Pink Panthers and asked me to go there. I went for the trial and got selected for the team. There were 15-20 people, who came for that trial.

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Sonu Narwal (right) in the Haryana Police Uniform with boxer Vijender Singh

Q. You are a DSP in Haryana Police. What do you enjoy more – catching criminals or playing kabaddi?

Now everything is professional. When I do my (Police) duty, then I enjoy catching criminals and when I play, then I enjoy the game. I can’t mix both the things. I am in police under sports quota.

Q. Which has been the happiest day in your kabaddi career?

My happiest day was the day when we defeated Iran and won the Asian Games gold medal in 2010.

Q. You were not that successful at the start of the tournament, but now you are the best raider in your team, especially in the last 3-4 matches. How do you feel now?

In the beginning, I came after losing 12 kgs and this platform was new to me, so I was not able to deliver my best performance. In the last 3-4 matches, I have been performing well. I always pray to God to help me keep my performance at the best level and help my team win every time.

Q. Now you have 5 matches, which are all do-or-die for the team. Do you feel any added pressure due to that?

Yes, our team is fully prepared. We know we have to win every match to qualify for the semi-final but we are confident in ourselves. We don’t feel that much pressure.

Q. What kind of support did you get from the senior players of the team?

Yes, we have Jasvir Singh, Navneet Gautam, who are really good and cool. They believe that the team should win irrespective of who plays. Their philosophy is simple – to help the team win.

Q. As a raider, do you feel any difficulties in Star Sports Pro Kabaddi?

The rule of the third do-or-die raid has made it very competitive (No team can have 3 empty raids). I used to do 10-20 empty raids before, now I have to take a point in the third raid. The defence of all the teams is very good in Star Sports Pro Kabaddi. Players with 6-7 points can become the best raider.

Q. Which team or an individual defender do you find most difficult to raid against?

There is nothing like the most difficult individual o team. This is very technical game. All the teams are having good defenders. It depends on luck mostly; any defender can tackle you. It’s just a matter of one second. If a defender makes his move a second before, he can win. If the raider makes his action a second before, he can win a point.

Q. You became friends with lots of celebrities during Star Sports Pro Kabaddi while your team owner, Abhishek Bachchan, is a big actor. How do you feel about that?

This is like a dream come true for me. People usually gather outside their bungalow just to see them and we are simply shaking hands with them and talking with them face-to-face. People worship Amitabh Bachchanji like a God outside their home and he, himself, came to us, which is a great thing, according to me.

Q. Who is your favourite actor?

My favourite actor is Sunny Deol.

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