Total Kabaddi - Evolution of the game
The Pro Kabaddi League has now entered its 6th Season and it’s once again evident that the athletic raiders, the ones that stand by the midline after a successful raid with their finger pointing to the sky or celebrate with a thigh five, are the showstoppers of the sport. Much like in Cricket, where the batsmen often steal the spotlight, the placards at every Kabaddi stadium across India have names like Rahul Chaudhari, Pardeep Narwal and more recently, Pawan Sehrawat and Siddharth Desai plastered across them, with chants that follow suit. However, you also may have heard season after season, commentators, including myself, speak of how the raiders win you big games but it’s the defence that wins Pro Kabaddi teams the titles over a long season.
Total Kabaddi is a style of Kabaddi that has been rapidly developing in Iran over the past 5-8 years and is one of the key reasons Kabaddi in the region has developed to the stage of beating India at the Asian Games in 2018.
In season 6, we saw a distinct change in the approach of the raiders on court to get involved in tackles and throw the gauntlet themselves with the initial tackles. It’s no co-incidence that whichever side Fazel Atrachali has played for over the past 4 seasons has made the PKL Finals! In a sport with 7 individuals on the mat and 4 of them being defenders, it’s extremely easy to have a game slip away if just 2 out of the 7 on court have a bad game. The raiders’ primary duty is to bring home the points in their raids and in the case of someone like Pardeep Narwal who has never gone close to a tackle in his PKL life, it’s THE ONLY duty. That trend though seems to have changed to a large extent as this glorious Indian sport has developed and become as much of a game of chess, as it is physically brutal. The inclusion of the Do or Die (D.O.D) raids may have initially just increased the pace of the game but in the last 2 seasons, has enforced the celebral quotient of the sport too, especially with the ability and patience of the defensive unit to realise the pressure on the raider in that situation is far great than on themselves.
With this increasing pressure on the raiders and the ability of the defensive line to flatten itself deeper with a defence of 5 or less (where the Bonus line is inactive), the raiders have found it MUCH harder to pick up free points in any situation other that when the opposition has 6 or 7 members on court. It some sense therefore, it has forced the raiders to think about how else they can contribute to the team if it’s a night where the opposition defence is compact and isn’t giving an inch…and this is where Total Kabaddi comes in!
Total Kabaddi is a style of Kabaddi that has been rapidly developing in Iran over the past 5-8 years and is one of the key reasons Kabaddi in the region has developed to the stage of beating India at the Asian Games in 2018. Simply put, Total Kabaddi is a brand of Kabaddi that hinges on entire teams creating 360 degree players, the true modern-day-all rounders that contribute with their raids but also defensively to a large degree. It’s a state of play that puts more onus on the raiders to contribute to a defensive efforts than trying to necessarily develop defenders into top raiders.
Let’s break it down a little. With every passing season, the role of the one or two all-rounders in a Kabaddi squad gets greater , but as of today, the starting seven is on most days, broken into a 3-Raider and 4-Defender unit, with two Covers & two Corners being the primary defenders. But imagine a side with every position being a threat defensively to stop a raider, a squad where every raider is able to truly contribute to a tackle, so there aren’t just 4 threats defensively in a team of seven on court. We are seeing more and more teams comfortable (and actually at times preferring) to play with a defence of 5 or even 4 while in seasons gone by, a defence of 4 meant you were all but certainly heading for an all-out. This comfort is bolstered by the fact that less substitutions are required if there is faith in the raiders that are left on court to shoulder some defensive responsibilities as well.
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Let’s throw some numbers in to back up all the preceding talk and you will soon see that it is a conscious effort from teams this season to follow the Iranian model of ensuring that every raider is involved in some degree to the cohesive defensive attempts of a team. We have often seen the likes of Mohsen Maghsoudlou shift into defensive roles but this season, we’ve seen Pawan Sehrawat playing the Right Corner when Bengaluru are down to 5, or Vinod Kumar be brought on for U Mumba to make vital contributions in a Super Tackle knowing that he could raid too if the need arose.
As the game continues to evolve, we are sure to see more trends and layers to the sport appear but this is a glaring one that indicates that unless you are a raider with the superstar quality of Pardeep, Sid Desai or Rahul, you need to be able to contribute defensively too
After 109 Matches in this season compared to the last, there have been over 200 more tackles attempted by primary raiders, and this isn’t even taking the all-rounders into contention.
Manjeet (Patna Pirates), Kashi, Pawan (Bengaluru Bulls), Anup (Jaipur Pink Panthers), Rohit Baliyan (UMumba), Mohsen (Telugu Titans), Sachin (Gujrat Fortunegiants), More GB (Puneri Paltan) have alone contributed 110 tackle points already and when you add the likes of Vinod Kumar, Akshay Jadhav, Naveen and a few others who fall under the All-Rounder category but are still primarily raiders, this number goes up significantly. There is obvious intent from the Coaches this season to utilise the raiders on court and squeeze more out of them beyond their raiding capabilities. The obvious threat is the added risk of spending more time on the bench which is why you see teams that are extremely confident in their defences to bring about revivals that use this tactic of Total Kabaddi more.
As the game continues to evolve, we are sure to see more trends and layers to the sport appear but this is a glaring one that indicates that unless you are a raider with the superstar quality of Pardeep, Sid Desai or Rahul, you need to be able to contribute defensively too, to keep your spot in the starting seven or for any young aspiring Kabaddi players reading this, perhaps utilise the ability to play Total Kabaddi to find yourselves your first big team contract!
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