Interview with the Puneri Paltan squad: 'Kabaddi is not just about physical strength'
Ahead of the next big kabaddi match between Puneri Paltan and Patna Pirates, the team members of popular Pro-Kabaddi League, Puneri Paltan, met the students of Symbiosis Institute of Media & Communication, Pune during their annual cultural and communication extravaganza, Fest-O-Comm, 2016.
Here are excerpts from an interview conducted by the students.
Q: What contribution do you think “Pro Kabaddi League” has made to Kabaddi as a sport in India?
A: The Pro Kabaddi League has contributed significantly to the sport in India. Earlier, there were very few people who watched Kabaddi despite India never having lost at the Asian Games. More and more players are now getting recognised by the common public who watch the sport. Earlier, they would only get to see the players at the Asian Games. It feels nice when people recognise you and appreciate your performances.
Q: The Pro Kabaddi League has brought players from different nationalities together. What are your thoughts on that?
A: I think it is a very good development as young players seek inspiration from them. They also get to mingle with players from other nationalities and it will help the sport to grow and break the stereotype that Kabaddi is a village level sport. It would also help Kabaddi to become an Olympic sport in the next few years and that would only encourage more and more people to take up the sport.
Q: How is Manjeet Chillar, the Most Valuable Player of the last season settling down in the team and what ‘value’ do you think he brings to the table as a Captain?
A: Manjeet settles us. He is a great player and an Arjuna awardee. He has also played the Asian Games and is a very good player who leads from the front. He is an excellent motivator and believes in giving an equal opportunity to everyone. We are really lucky that he is a part of the Puneri Paltan this year.
Q: What is the journey to reach the Pro Kabaddi League like?
A: Most of the players come from an economically and socially backward background. Some of them don’t even have the money to support their family in the evening. They work on daily wages of Rs.200-300 in the day and practice for Kabaddi in the evening. They have to support their family, perform and reach the national level to get selected for the Pro Kabaddi League. There is a lot of hard work involved in reaching this platform.
Q: You defeated Dabang Delhi by an overwhelming 18 points whereas the 2 matches you’ve lost have only had a marginal difference in the points as you posed a close competition both times. Either you win big or you don't let the opposition win easy. What's your secret winning mantra to this?
A: The team has experienced players like Ajay Thakur and Prashant Chavan besides Manjeet. An experienced team can change the match at any moment. Even if the opposition has the lead, the senior players do not get flustered and that is where their experience actually comes into play. Though we have finished on the losing side in the two close games so far, there are 11 more games to go and I’m pretty sure that we would be on the winning side when a similar situation arises the next time.
Q: There is a misconception that Kabaddi puts more emphasis on brawn than brain. What do you have to say on that?
A: I’m glad you asked the question because every time we play a match, we draw up a specific strategy based on the opposition’s strength and weaknesses. There are detailed discussions on whether to dive or back shoot, when to employ the chain formation, etc. It was earlier said that Kabaddi was a sport based on power but that isn’t true any longer as the techniques that are being used are different.
Q: Lastly, what are your targets for this season?
A: We would, at least, like to make the semi-finals and from there, it can be anyone’s game. Obviously, the ultimate aim will be to make the finals and win the Championship.