Ghar Se Panga: Indian captain Priyanka Pilaniya - "How I broke the rules and followed my Kabaddi dream"

The Corona virus pandemic has led to the postponement of the much-awaited Pro Kabaddi League season 8. To keep the high-intensity game of Kabaddi going, at Kabaddi Adda we try and eliminate the virtual gap between the athletes and fans by talking to athletes on their new routines and fitness schedules at home.

Priyanka Pilaniya:

Right raider, current Indian Captain, SAF Games Gold Medalist.

Priyanka Pilaniya
Priyanka Pilaniya against Himachal Pradesh: Senior Nationals 2020

Our conversation with Priyanka revealed her mental strength. It is really tough for a girl, in a male-dominated village, to follow her dreams. Read below to know how Priyanka took every obstacle in her stride and overcame those to be an International Kabaddi Player.


KA: What is your daily routine during the current lockdown?
Priyanka: Lockdown demands people to stay home. Thus, I have a set routine to practice twice a day - morning and evening. I wake up by 4:30 A.M. and practice for two hours. By 7, I finish my breakfast. Then to the day-to-day chores, I help my mother in the kitchen, take care of our cows and buffaloes, perform some agricultural activities, and have a fun time with niece/nephew.


KA: What is your family's history in sports?
Priyanka: My brother and sister also played Kabaddi. Brother Pawan Kumar is in Army and sister Pinky is Sub-Inspector with Rajasthan Police.

I was weak at academics as a child. In our village in Haryana, boys played Kabaddi. Whenever my brother went to play, I had the urge to join him. I started playing at the age of thirteen in school when my Sanskrit teacher, Mrs. Bajpai, and Principal, Shri Banty Singh Mehra insisted.


KA: How has your family supported your game
Priyanka: In the beginning, restrictions were imposed. In the village, Kabaddi was not played by girls so, parents initially did not dare to permit me to play. I have played a few tournaments without their knowledge. However upon playing the State level, my family allowed me to continue with Kabaddi.


KA: Who is your inspiration to pursue Kabaddi?
Priyanka: I often practiced with a few International Kabaddi players like Sukhbir Singh at the village who taught me the Kabaddi skills. My Sanskrit ma'am said, “If boys can play, why you can’t?” She has always backed me and even taught Kabaddi in her Sanskrit periods in school. All these inspired me.


KA: Tell us more about your Kabaddi Journey
Priyanka: 2010: I was selected for India Camp in 2010 but could not join due to family restriction on the grounds of being too young to play such a renowned tournament. I still regret that decision. We did not have sufficient knowledge then. At camp, even if I did not get selected, I would have at least learned something.

2012: I played my first Senior Nationals in 2012. My incapability to comply with the weight criteria prohibited me from playing Junior Nationals.

2019: I played Asian Games, 2019 held in Nepal as the captain of the Indian Women’s Kabaddi team. This is a proud moment for me. Coach Dr. Sunil Dabas trained the team hard. I would thank her from the bottom of my heart for such efforts. Former Indian Captain Mamatha Poojary had told me earlier that - "Hard work pays off. You must have perseverance and confidence". I realized the importance of these values when the Indian team walked away with the Gold Medal.

Priyanka currently trains under the guidance of her coach Subedar Vijay Singh, at Chaudhari Ram Swaroop Kabaddi Academy, Adampur, Charkhidadri, Haryana.

Priyanka Pilaniya

KA: How did it feel to wear the Indian jersey for the first time:
Priyanka: It was a proud moment for me filled with gratitude. People think there is no ultimate result of playing Kabaddi. That was the day I realized what it means to be in Indian jersey and to play for your Nation, your Country. I consider no achievement more valuable. It requires a lot of hard work, patience, consistency, and mindset to reach the level where you bear responsibilities of INDIA on your shoulders. You have a commitment, a promise to fulfill i.e. to bring home Gold.


KA: Who are people who shaped your Kabaddi career?
Priyanka: Support of coaches is a primary force. Shri Kuldeep Singh Dalal helped me a lot and kept me informed about the tournaments being held. He had faith in me. Thus, till now I have played Nationals and around ten Internationals.


KA: How has the experience with Senior Players been?
Priyanka: In 2010, I went for Beach Kabaddi in Muscat and met Mamatha Poojary there. I was so excited about getting a chance to play with such renowned players. She was very helpful and shared knowledge with us. She kept telling us that - "You are still young and have to play lots of tournaments. Play with a free mind; I am here to take the burden." Hence, we played with no pressure on us.


KA: Share your typical training schedule at camp
Priyanka: We do fitness workouts twice a day. When the match-day nears, we up the workouts to thrice a day; fitness and skill in morning and ground practice in the afternoon and evening. Sometimes practice late till 10 P.M.


KA: Share your typical match day schedule
Priyanka: We basically relax and plan with senior players and coaches. We build a strategy and try to keep our mind tension-free. This helps keep our morale high. Whenever one plays for India, we have patriotism pushing us. Hopes and emotions of millions are connected to us. Our only target is to bag Gold.

Priyanka Pilaniya

KA: Your experience with a prominent Kabaddi coach
Priyanka: Dr. Sunil Dabas has coached me at world Cup, Indoor Kabaddi, 2012 Nationals. She is an experienced, high-tech coach. Moreover, she loves players like her own kids. We do not miss our mothers when she is with us. However, she is very disciplined during practice and expects a hundred percent. Ignoring instructions is what she hates the most. Dabas ma'am is also very punctual.


KA: Tell us about your job?
Priyanka: I was offered a job by Indian Railways and Rajasthan Police but my family wanted me to work in Haryana and stay close to them. I personally wanted to accept those offers to secure my career. I am still single and right now marriage is not a big deal. My family is eagerly hoping for my job in Haryana. Then we may look into marriage.


KA: Message to aspiring girls in Kabaddi:
Priyanka: I encourage girls in my village to take up Kabaddi. A few girls practice in my ground and I wish at least a few play Nationals along with me. One of them has already been offered a job at Grameen Bank after Nationals.

Rapid Fire with Priyanka:
Favorite Indian Kabaddi Player: Mamatha Poojary & Anup Kumar
Favorite foreign Kabaddi Player: Fazel Atrachali
Best Friend in Game: Pinky Roy
Favorite sport except for Kabaddi: Wrestling
Favorite Player except for Kabaddi: Vinesh Phogat
Free time hobby: Listening to music
Sport you would have played if Kabaddi was not there: Wrestling
Favorite Movie: Chak De India
Favorite Actor: Akshay Kumar
Favorite car: Fortuner