Prapanjan : Kabaddi's gentle giant from Salem
The coronavirus pandemic has brought life to a standstill across the world. Especially in the Kabaddi world, a sport defined by contact between people is taking a break from the usual tours. The athletes are also bound by the rules of isolation as the rest of us. Kabaddi Adda talks to Kabaddi athletes, staying at homes or their academies, on their changed routines, with competitions on hold and plenty of time on hand.
Left Raider, Karnataka, Bengal Warriors (Pro Kabaddi Season 7)
How are you coping with staying at home all day? What is your daily schedule as the practice and all would not be happening?
I am at Salem, working from home. There is farmland in front of our home where we have created a court. We either train, play Kabaddi or volleyball. There are five of us. Then, we also help out in the farm.
Before lockdown, we distributed food and water to street workers and migrant workers. Water is the biggest issue here, so we tried to help out as much as we could.
Do you spend time watching movies at home?
I check out my Pro Kabaddi videos on HotStar. With my wife Keerthana we look at the videos and discuss my high and low points. We just married a month back. My wife noticed me while playing Kabaddi and it was a bit of love-arranged marriage. In her family, everyone is a Kabaddi fan and her mother is also a Kabaddi player.
Did you study in Thirunelveli, Tamil Nadu?
Oh no! That is an error in the Wikipedia page. I did my Masters in Commerce from Salem, Sri Ganesh College. Following my masters, I got a job in Customs Bangalore. Since then I have been living in Bangalore and playing for the Customs team. We play all A-grade tournaments and Civil Services tournaments. We played Industry nationals where Pardeep, Sandeep Narwal played for Income Tax. We qualified from South Zone and played in Shimla against the teams from North.
Tell us more about your family and their involvement in the sport
Both my parents - father Kumarvel and mother Umanath were Kabaddi players. Mother is a district-level Kabaddi player. Their dream was always for me to achieve most as a player. My younger brother and sister are also Kabaddi players. My brother Subash looks exactly like me - he is an all-rounder and plays as right raider and defender.
Your growth in PKL has been fantastic. 21 points in your first 4 seasons. But ever since you have amassed 350 points in the next 3 seasons.
Every player has their trajectory. For instance, Pawan scored only 24 points with Gujarat Fortunegiants and went on to score 250+ points with Bengaluru. For me, K Bhaskaran sir changed my life with his ideas and experiences; it helped me played a fearless brand of Kabaddi since.
With Bengal Warriors you came out of the shadows of Ajay Thakur. And became one of three main raiders for Warriors. What is BC Ramesh's role in this transformation?
I have trained with Ramesh sir as a part of the Karnataka team. He knows me well - he knows my game, Jeeva's game, and Sukesh's game very well. We have played many nationals together. This time for Bengal Warriors had a unique strategy - we were 3 main raiders - me, Maninder and Nabibaksh. So Ramesh sir rotated each of us as main raiders as the matches went on.
ALSO READ : How Sukesh Hegde is coping with Corona?
With Mani injured, what was the Bengal strategy for the PKL7 semi-finals and finals?
Even I was injured. But I recovered just in time for the finals. Ramesh sir informed me that I will play the finals with Sukesh and Nabibaksh as raiders. But we had a completely different strategy - we brought youngster Ravinder Kumavat which the opposition did not expect and it was the master-stroke!
You have played with K Bhaskaran, Srinivas Reddy, BC Ramesh, Manpreet Singh and Edacherry Bhaskaran. How has each of them molded your game?
All coaches have different techniques and strategies. But in my opinion, we should not change our games completely while working with different coaches and might end up losing our identity. So we maintain our skills and apply the coaches' technique in tuning and strategizing about our game. The most important phase during the camp is to do this. Over a month, we often get used to this. I really like coach Bhaskaran K explains things and helps build ethics in a player. However, during matches, BC Ramesh sir gives specific, relevant feedback.
ALSO WATCH : Learn Kabaddi Skill with BC Ramesh Sir
How did you get selected into Pro Kabaddi? It was especially rare to see Tamil players before the Thalaivas team was stitched together by K Bhaskaran.
I was a part of Pro Kabaddi right from Season 2. I kicked off my Pro Kabaddi campaign with U Mumba in PKL2. EME Bhopal Army Team selected me but unfortunately, I had crossed their age bar. I was already 19. But my senior Rajesh was the coach of EME Army team - he especially liked my game and recommended me as a junior player to Edacherry Bhaskaran sir. When Bhaskaran sir called me, I was surprised. This allowed me to play with Anup Sir, Shabeer Sir. Although U Mumba was rich with experienced players, I used to make it to the playing 12. This helped me evolve my game early in Pro Kabaddi.
And you won Pro Kabaddi in your first season with U Mumba. How was the 2-year stint with U Mumba and a year with Telugu Titans?
Rakesh Kumar had also joined the team in Season 3. I have tried to model my game on his game and being a part of U Mumba allowed me to play with him in Season 3. We reached the finals but lost to Patna Pirates.
Srinivas Reddy was coach of Telugu Titans, we - me and Nilesh Shinde got a bit more opportunity to play. We got into the Starting 7 in quite a few matches.
But after three seasons of missed opportunities, I was a bit down without any clarity on how to improve my game. Then while playing Federation Cup - coach K Bhaskaran spotted me and selected me for the Tamil Thalaivas team. That was a turning point in my career and for the first time, I felt like I was important to my team's fortunes. And that season with Tamil Thalaivas gave me immense confidence.
Is there a Pro Kabaddi match, that has just stuck in your memory?
I was playing for Gujarat Fortunegiants in PKL Season6. We lost a close match to Dabang Delhi at home. Coach Manpreet Singh was upset with our performance and gave us a solid pep talk. To make matters worse Sachin Tanwar was also injured. Only me, Ajay Kumar and Dong Lee - we were playing against an in-form Sid Desai powered U Mumba at home. In that match, I scored my first Super-10 and this match was the turning point of my Pro Kabaddi career. That was the first time I realized, I could win matches for my team leading from the front. That was a wonderful moment for me.
You are from Salem, Tamil Nadu. However, you play in Nationals for Karnataka. Why did you move?
I started playing for my village, followed by playing for Salem district in Tamil Nadu State level tournaments. Selvamani (from Haryana Steelers, PKL6) is also from Salem and we played a lot together for Tamil Nadu in Senior Nationals.
But since I got a job with Bangalore Customs, I could not play for Tamil Nadu; so I started playing for Karnataka. Only this year I missed Senior Nationals - for my wedding. But I attended Karnataka camp but did not want to go for selections to avoiding taking away a place from a youngster.
What is the message you would like to give your fans in this CORONA Virus situation?
As a Kabaddi player, be disciplined and continue to be passionate about the game. Respect the mat, field, and coaches. Never miss training twice a day even if you're stuck at home. And don't focus on the results, focus on training, your game and results will find a way.
Rapid Fire with Prapanjan
- Favorite Indian Kabaddi player - Rakesh Kumar, Ajay Thakur, Shabeer Bapu
- Favorite foreign Kabaddi player - Moeen Nabibaksh
- Close friend among the Kabaddi players? - Kalai Arasan from Gujarat Fortunegiants
- Sport other than Kabaddi? Badminton or Basketball
- Favorite player outside Kabaddi? MS Dhoni
- Hobby? Play video games, wood art and drawing
- Vehicle owned by you - Bajaj Dominar 400
- Mud or mat - Mat
- Match ka first half ya second half - First 5 minutes when nerves settle
- BC Ramesh ya Bhaskaran K as coach - Bhaskaran K
- Maninder Singh Ya Nabibaksh as captain - Maninder Singh