The coronavirus pandemic has brought life to a standstill across the world. Especially in the Kabaddi world, a sport defined by contact between people, things are taking a break from the usual tours. The athletes are bound by the rules of isolation, just like the rest of us, but Kabaddi Adda has been speaking to the athletes, staying at their homes or academies, on their changed routines, with competitions on hold and plenty of time on hand.
Left Raider, Karnataka, Bank of Baroda, Haryana Steelers (PKL 7)
Prashanth Kumar Rai (PKR) plays for Bank of Baroda, Karnataka and Haryana Steelers (PKL7). He was the most expensive B category raider in PKL6 as UP Yoddhas bought him for 79 lakhs. He was very easy to talk with, we thank him for being patient and doing this fun interview with us. Read on to get to know about his routine, his early days, his Kabaddi journey, and much more.
KA: With the whole nation under lockdown what is your daily schedule like?
PKR: I'm employed as a manager at Bank of Baroda. Banking falls under essentials so I have my duty from 9am to 6pm. However, I ensure to do my morning fitness before I leave to work. I live in an apartment where the rules more strict because of community living, unlike independent homes. In the morning I start with Yoga and Surya Namaskar for an hour. I keep a strict check on my food habits. Once I'm back from work, I spend time with my kids at home.
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KA: Share your Kabaddi story with us
PKR: In 2001 I joined under sports quota for weightlifting at St.Philomena College, Puttur for my pre-university course after failing 10th once. Few seniors used to play Kabaddi and watching them play I developed a liking to the sport and joined them for practice daily.
As soon as I started playing, I learned quickly and the same year got selected for the district and went on to play for Karnataka in the Junior Nationals. I continued in the same college for my undergraduate degree and eventually got a sports quota job at Karnataka State Police in 2006. A year later I moved to Vijaya Bank and since then have been playing Kabaddi for Vijaya Bank, and recently merged with Bank of Baroda.
My growth in the sport was rapid and a lot of that credit goes to Philomena college and their encouragement of sportspersons in the early 2000s.
KA: How did your family support you through this journey?
PKR: Fortunately, I did not have any restrictions from my family when it came to sports. My mom passed away when I was 16 and dad passed away when I was 20. Those were tough years but I consider myself lucky to have been placed in a sports quota job. It was important for me to have a job.
Talking about the balance between sports and studies: Like I mentioned before I had failed the 10th class once, which speaks a lot about my interest in studies (PKR laughs). I was an average student, but since I spent a lot of time playing sports, I hardly attended classes. We used to go for tournaments and practice sessions. I just about managed to clear all my papers without any backlogs to finish my degree and settle into a job which was a good feeling for me at that time.
KA: You have played in a Mud court as well as on the Mat; what is your take on the switch, and how does a player get adjusted?
PKR: In the beginning, it was very hard for me to get adjusted but as I started playing more on the mat I got used to it and it became easier. Today, mud kabaddi is almost extinct, even a local tournament today is being played on the mat. Upcoming youngsters are directly playing and practicing on the mat. The switch from Mud to Mat has made the sport more popular in terms of broadcasting and the fan following it has today.
KA: Can you take us through the recruitment process for a sports quota job at a bank?
PKR: The banks put out a press release based on the requirement in the team, for instance, if the team needs a left raider they would put out trails notification for that position and select from a pool of players. When I applied, over 100 players used to show up for these trials. Once selected, depending on his educational qualification he/she would be given a job post.
KA: In Season 6 PKL auctions you got picked by UP Yoddha for 79 lakhs and you were the highest-paid B category raider, what was the feeling like?
PKR: It was totally unexpected. In season 5, I was selected by Haryana Steelers for 20 lakhs and they wanted to retain me at 23 lakhs. I had a good season 5 with the Steelers followed by a fantastic Senior Nationals 2018 campaign - where Karnataka finished 3rd place, beat the strong Services team in the group stage game with a score difference of 10 points and lost to eventual winners Maharashtra by a single point in the semi-finals. So after a good season of Kabaddi, I was hoping for at least 30 lakhs hence I decided to try my luck at the auctions. Since I was a B category my auction was not telecasted so, I was following the auction online along with my wife. As the price kept crossing 50, 60 and 70 lakhs I was extremely surprised. Finally, UP Yoddha got me at 79 lakhs, one of the most memorable moments of my career.
KA: How has life changed post-PKL?
PKR: Life has changed a lot post-PKL, you get recognized where ever you go, people come and talk to you. Work gets done without any waiting (PKR laughs), and many such changes. Now I have a house, vehicle, and a good lifestyle which has been possible because of the PKL. It is not just me, PKL has changed the lives of all players.
KA: Few words on your experience with Haryana Steelers in season 7 of the PKL
PKR: We were a great bunch to start off with, a mix of experienced and young players. We had Anna who ran the team and is a great inspiration in the fitness aspect and passion for the game. We had young players like Vikash Kandola and Vinay who were quite brilliant. Rakesh Kumar as a coach - what do I tell about him, he has been such an inspiration to all in his playing days and a great coach now. He treated all the players like his own brothers. We had a great season but in the playoffs, we were not able to bring our A-game. I would like to mention the training facility we had our pre-season camp - Inspire Institute of Sport in Bellary, Karnataka - an amazing facility with international standard trainers. Training there for a month was key to how we performed as a team through the season.
KA: Any message for your Fans?
PKR: I would say, everyone please stay home stay safe; there is no cure yet for this virus so it is important to follow all the norms of social distancing and keep ourselves away from this deadly virus. I would like to request everyone to not step out of the house until it's extremely necessary. And to all who are still coming to Banks, please use digital banking and don't overcrowd at the banks. Thank you!
Rapid Fire with Prashanth Kumar Rai
- Favorite Indian Kabaddi Player: Anup Kumar and Rakesh Kumar
- Favorite Foreign Kabaddi Player: Abozar Mighani
- Best Friend in the Kabaddi circuit: I have many: Sukesh Hegde, Jeeva Kumar, Anna, and Rishank to name a few
- Any other sport other than Kabaddi that you like: Weight Lifting and Volley Ball
- Favorite sports person outside Kabaddi: Rahul Dravid
- Hobby: Playing with my kids and watching TV
- Favorite Actor: Sunil Shetty and Akshay Kumar
- Favorite Vehicle: Tata Harrier