Pro Kabaddi League 2018: Rishank Devadiga ready and raring to go for Season 6 with UP Yoddha
For someone who is a wrecking ball on the court, off it Rishank Devadiga is rather soft-spoken and reserved. But the same clarity of thought that runs through his mind when he's raiding can be found when he talks about the game that he loves the most.
In the early months of this year, Rishank captained his Maharashtra side to the championship in the senior kabaddi nationals. The win brought to an end an 11-year-drought for the state since it's last triumph.
This October, more leadership awaits for Rishank as he has been chosen as captain of UP Yoddha for season six of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL). It's a role he's relishing as he told Sportskeeda over a brief chat ahead of the season.
Ready for the challenge
"It's a very big responsibility because I had the same responsibility in the senior nationals with Maharashtra", says Rishank. "So it's a little bit of a similar challenge for me to show the same leadership in PKL 6 this year and I feel ready for it."
Rishank is one of many new captains this time around with the likes of Girish Ernak, Sunil Kumar and Vishal Bharadwaj also being given the captain's armband for their respective franchises. We ask Rishank if this is a trend that he's seeing with the captaincy moving away from the veteran, very seasoned players.
"This is definitely a good trend. I think all the franchises are seeing that the young players are very motivated and are up for the challenge. That's what I think is the main reason the franchises are putting faith in these players and making them the captain", feels Rishank.
Incidentally, this is not the first time he will be leading the Yoddha side. He was stand-in captain last season for a couple of games and in the first of those games, he set a new PKL record for most points in a game with 28 points in a destructive performance against the Jaipur Pink Panthers.
Rishank has fond memories of that day, calling the achievement "a great feeling" and something that gives him a lot of pride. But there were moments last season where he was guilty of getting out at inopportune times that put the team in trouble.
"Yes", says Rishank when asked if he's looking to correct those erroneous decisions. "This time I'm not just a raider, I also have the responsibility of being the captain. I need to be calm and composed and tackle every match very calmly. Whoever the raiders and defenders are on the mat, I have to make sure that they play according to the game situation."
While the senior nationals win and victory with the national team at the World Kabaddi Masters in Dubai were high-points for Rishank, the Asian Games adventure was a low-point. He was part of the team that returned with the bronze medal as their gold medal pursuit ended at the hands of Iran in the semifinals.
More determined to do well
That defeat has given him more motivation for the upcoming season says the Yoddha skipper: "Definitely more motivated because the Asian Games result was something unexpected for each and every one of us who went to Indonesia. Personally, I think all of us are now more determined to do well."
For three seasons Rishank played under 'Captain Cool' Anup Kumar at U Mumba before switching to the Yoddha. To captaincy style questions, Rishank says he doesn't have a particular type but is rather looking to imbibe the best of what he's learnt from others.
"I have gained a lot of confidence playing under Anup's captaincy. And with the national team I have played under Ajay's captaincy", he says. "Like, I really got to learn a lot of things from them which I feel is going to help me to lead UP Yoddha."
The Mumbai man is known to be one of the fittest and strongest players in the league, someone who always looks in peak condition. We ask him what he's looked at working on the most during the off-season.
"This time around I have focused a lot on the mistakes that I committed last season. My coaches have been working with me to identify those errors from last season and this time I will make sure I don't repeat those mistakes."
(The UP Yoddha play their first match of season 6 today against the Tamil Thalaivas)