How Kabaddi became India’s fastest growing sport | CNBC Sports


That’s me and those guys
are players from UP Yoddha, a professional team that plays
the Indian sport of kabaddi. The defense has picked
up eight points. He’s come back because this
is a do or die raid and it is done. With Shrikant Jadhav perhaps… but Rishank Devadiga
has been the choice and he has struggled. Kabaddi is the second most-watched sport in
India and is even growing internationally, so what’s all the buzz about
and how do you play it? Kabaddi is played on a 13×10 meter court
and is separated into two halves by a midline. The game is played between two
teams made up of seven players each. The teams alternate between
raiding and defending. The raider’s objective is to go
to the other half of the court, tap one or more of the defenders and
return safely within 30 seconds. However, the raider must start repeatedly
saying “kabaddi” before he crosses the midline and can’t stop repeating this word until
he crosses back over to his team’s side. If he stops saying “kabaddi” on the opponent’s
side of the court, even for a split second, he is out. He picks up one point for each defender he touches, but
he must also avoid being tackled to keep the points. This is difficult as he can face between one
and seven defenders at the same time. The defenders have to work together as a unit, avoid the
raider’s tap and failing that, stop him from returning. Defenders get one point
for a successful tackle. Any player that steps or is forced
out of the court is then eliminated. UP Yoddha represents the
northern state Uttar Pradesh. The team is in its second season in the Pro Kabaddi
League and Rishank Devadiga is the team’s captain. So, kabaddi is all about a body contact
game. It’s basically like a rugby game. You have to be strong, you have to be fit,
mentally fit and also agile on the mat. For you, when you play in one of these Pro
Kabaddi matches, what’s the atmosphere like? How much pressure is there on
you particularly the captain? When Pro Kabaddi started we were told to face
the camera, the audience, and everything. It was a bit nervous at the start, but now we enjoy the
atmosphere, we enjoy the matches that we play. Kabaddi as a professional
sport is a relatively new thing. Until recently, it’s been seen as more of
a hobby only played outside the cities. Kabaddi was looked as
a rural, rustic sport. It was a sport that was not embraced by urban
India, completely overlooked the sport. The settings of the sport was such that
it used to be played on dusty bowls. Kabaddi on television?
Completely unheard of, “Why would somebody watch it?
How are they going to present it?” And that was what aggregated people
to come and sample the sport. In other sports, in cricket, for example, you have
to wait for a four, or a six, or when a wicket falls. That is the high point. In soccer or
football, it’s a goal, similarly in hockey. In kabaddi, every 30 seconds is a high point. It has got the potential of either being a
successful raid or being a successful tackle. The idea behind the Pro Kabaddi League
or PKL started back in 1994. However, it wasn’t until 2014, 20 years later,
that a broadcaster, Star Sports, came on board. The Pro League, now in its fifth year
has seen considerable growth in both investment and
audience numbers. From 2016 to 2017, the PKL increased its
viewership in India by almost 100 million. And while it’s still second to India’s premier T20
cricket competition, the Indian Premier League, domestically, the Pro Kabaddi League
is more popular than the Fifa World Cup, one of the world’s most-
watched sporting events. Investment in the league
has also increased. In 2017, Star Sports signed the biggest
sponsorship deal in India for a non-cricket sport, worth more than $40 million. As a result player salaries
have also increased. Following the 2016 player auction, the highest
paid player was on just under $130,000 This year it’s $210,000. For team owners and stakeholders
in the sport, more investment will help attract more
young players to the game. What ultimately a sport stands on is,
what does it do for its players? So what we have been able to do is to make kabaddi
athletes aspirational for sports lovers in India. Player salaries have gone up and
they definitely see themselves in the front line of the committee
of sports persons in India. Which means that increasingly being a
kabaddi athlete will become a viable career. That is at the heart of any sport. There are also signs of the
sport growing outside India. At this year’s Asia Games neither the men
or women’s India kabaddi teams won gold, and the men’s team didn’t
even make it to the final. Something that caught
the world’s attention. Of course, we are the country who lost, which is bad
for me as a fan, but then for our game of kabaddi, it’s an ultimate manifestation
of how the game is growing. There are two to three more teams who are
on any day, depending on the performer, are able to beat a country like India, where
the game was developed and grown. So, when a raider touches a defender
it’s done on an honesty policy. So, the defender will say, “Yes, I’ve been touched,” and
for a professional sport, that’s pretty impressive. However, that’s where the pleasantries end.
This isn’t a sport for the faint-hearted. Most of them are carrying injuries. One
person has a finger that is bent that way. Would you like to play with us? Umm, okay. So, got all the kit on. I’m actually really nervous. But first I need to warm up. That was just the warm-up,
I’m absolutely knackered. Warm up over it’s now time to play and
unsurprisingly, I’m picked to be the first raider. Straight in. Perfect. I’m exhausted. I can’t understand a thing but… Raid again? Rubbish! So, my raiding wasn’t great but
maybe I’ll be better at defending. I’m done, so tired. Holy hell. Thank you. That is not easy. Kabaddi is a serious sport. Hi guys, thanks for watching our video on kabaddi. If you
want to see more of our content, then check out these. And comment below the video to let me
know what you think of my kabaddi skills. And remember, don’t forget to subscribe.

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