Away From Glitz, Romance Of Kabaddi

Packed stadium greets athletes competing in one of India\'s oldest sports; veteran high jumper Sahana proves her mettle again

Published: 10th February 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th February 2015 04:30 AM   |  A+A-

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Far from the fury that gulfed the Chandrasekharan Nair Stadium, where track and field events reeled off to a glittering start, a pack of rugged men were tussling for supremacy in one of India’s own indigenous sport, kabaddi. The sport, despite the fillip that Pro Kabaddi League has furnished them belatedly, is not yet a mainstream sport. Nonetheless, there is an undeniable romance about it, which fully manifested at the packed stadium.

True, it may be that the crowd had come to support the hosts, who lost 29-20 to Rajasthan. But even after they had packed their bags, the crowd were glued to the seats, cheering random teams. Like in boxing and wrestling, they cheered whenever a player was pinned down by opponents. There is a brutal joy it gives the spectators.

Picture this. You are staring at six robust men, crouching with arms clutched, watching the raider like a predator would a prey, ready to pounce on him any moment, chanting kabaddi, kabaddi... The raider’s plight is akin to a deer entering a lion’s den and entrusted with the task to pull its beard. He has to touch an opponent’s body and squirm back to his half. What’s more, he has to hold his breathe, and hence keeps chanting. The foot work has to be nimble and the judgment pinpoint, lest the predators will huddle you down. It’s part wrestling, part martial arts.

In rural Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, it’s still played on clay; but in national and international competitions, it’s played on mat. It’s part of the popular culture and faith. And hence most national players are from this belt. In the South, it’s mostly nonexistent, but there are still a couple of franchisees in PKL (Bengaluru Bulls and Telugu Titans). Maybe, the IPL-style league will sow the seeds of popularity in future.

Meanwhile, high jumper Sahana Kumari, a month shy of turning 33, continued her raising the bar of consistency. The national record holder, who is the mother of a eight-year-old wasn’t at her best, in fact way off her personal best of 1.92, but her 1.8o-jump sufficed. In the past, she has complained of a lack of competition. The complaint is likely to go unaddressed until she retires. Still superbly fit, she nurtures Rio hopes.

On the medals table, Services continued their gold drive—now it has become passé—and have notched up a half century of yellow metal. They have nearly doubled their lead over Maharashtra and Haryana (both on 27). Kerala, meanwhile, will hope to build on OP Jaisha’s gold in 5000m.

Pooja Shines

The women's triathlon was expectedly swept by Gujarat's Pooja Chaurushi, the first Indian to win an international triathlon championship — the South Asian Championship. She won the individual gold, before combing with Pallavi and Pragnya to win the team gold as well.

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