Rishank Devadiga, one of the more prominent names in the Kabaddi circuit, has highlighted the differences between the early years of the Pro Kabaddi League and the current, ongoing season nine.
Speaking exclusively to Sportskeeda, Rishank explained why his analysis off the mat is lightning quick. His stint as skipper of U.P. Yoddhas (then U.P. Yoddha) also saw him make on-the-spot decisions which helped the side clutch pressure situations. He explained:
"I think I've been playing the game for so many years, so that's why reading the game has been easy for me. I used to read the game really well even when I started playing. I was good at reading the situation of the game.
"As the captain for U.P. Yoddha, I used to make many decisions during the game which used to benefit the team. PKL has a different level and after playing the game here, I have understood how to read the game and make decisions. That's why it is easy to analyze the game while commentating."
Speaking about the difference between Pro Kabaddi League's initial seasons and the current game, Rishank explained how the raiding patterns have changed from teams being aggressive in the raiding department to sides opting to focus on do-or-die raids.
"There has been a lot of change. Earlier in Season 1, raiders used to be very dominant. There used to be high-scoring matches earlier. Teams did not wait for the do-or-die raid earlier. Now, the teams read the situation and play the game.
"Their defense has improved and they are analyzing the raiders and their weaknesses to tackle them at the right moment. So, it has become more difficult for the raiders to score and this is one of the biggest transformations from PKL 1 till PKL 9."
Regarding the change in the manner in which raiders go about their business now, Rishank elaborated on the increase in the use of technology to analyze raiders and said:
"We need to accept that the use of technology has increased. When we talk about PKL 1 and PKL 2, we do not have as much data about the players to analyze. Now, we have a lot of data on players from local matches, state and district matches as well. We can get data about players playing PKL for the first time and we can strategize against them."
Rishank also stated that teams used to strategize according to the match situation in the initial seasons. But he now feels there has been a paradigm shift in how the teams approach the sport and strategize before the game.
"We used to play in earlier seasons according to the situation, but now the strategy is made before the match begins and that is just implemented during the match."
"We have seen sides struggle to find a good secondary raider this season" - Rishank on the importance of a secondary raider
Playing second fiddle to Anup Kumar in U Mumba, Rishank has plenty of experience under his belt on the responsibilities that a secondary raider has to undertake.
Rishank lauded the Pune team for having a good set of raiders who have good back-ups. He believes that the other teams are lacking to find a good secondary raider.
"The role of a secondary raider is very important. We have seen the sides struggle to find a good secondary raider this season. Only in the Pune side, Aslam plays as the strike raider and Mohit Goyat plays as the secondary raider, getting in points when the defense has four or five members and in Do-or-Die raids."
"In other teams, the lead raider is going for the do-or-die raids and in every difficult situation, the lead raider is being sent and there is a lot of dependency on him. The second raider plays a very important role in the team. If the lead raider is tackled and is not given points, the second raider can get them points and keep them in a good position."
Rishank also believes that each side should have a left-right combination to help the side unsettle the opposition defense. He explained:
"If the raiders attack from both sides, they can unsettle the defense as the defense will be unsure as to which raider will come for the raid when. If a right raider goes for a raid and gets in a touch on the right corner or right cover, the left raider is at an advantage as he can pick up a bonus or a touch point in those areas. A left-right combination is good for each side."
"Winning the championship in Season 2" - Rishank Devadiga on his favorite moment in PKL history
Rishank recalled his favorite moment in Pro Kabaddi history, the moment U Mumba won the championship in Season 2. He also enjoyed Season 3, where Rishank was U Mumba's highest raid-points getter, finishing as the league's second-highest raid-point getter behind Pardeep Narwal.
"Personally, winning the championship in Season 2 was my favorite moment. Winning the trophy is possibly the best moment for any player and even in Season 3, I was the number one raider in the tournament and we could have won the final. But for the second time, we lost a final we could have won. Season 2 and Season 3 have the best memories for me."
The Mumbai-born raider was also impressed with how the umpires have made their decisions this season. He spoke about how there used to be a few mistakes from the match officials earlier but this season, they have all been perfect.
"All the rules are perfect. The umpires have been especially terrific this season. Over the seasons, we have seen a few mistakes from the umpires but this season, the umpires are doing a really good job. They are giving each decision perfectly."
Lastly, Rishank also hopes that the league can start their caravan system once again next season, which sees the league visit multiple venues. Fans in many states have been devoid of kabaddi action ever since the pandemic and the return of action could bolster viewership even further.
"If we can have matches at every venue, in every state like the earlier seasons, it will give the fans an opportunity to enjoy. Mumbai always has a different atmosphere we will see during the playoffs. There are many states where fans are waiting for Pro Kabaddi to return."
Rishank Devadiga was last seen in action for the Bengal Warriors in Season 8. He is currently commentating and providing expert reviews and analysis in the ongoing Season 9 of the Pro Kabaddi League.