India's kabaddi captain Anup Kumar believes that kabaddi's popularity will soon match that of cricket in the country as the sport has started to capture the imagination of the masses. The fifth PKL season kicked-off yesterday, with Kumar's team U Mumba losing to Puneri Paltan in the second game.
Indian kabaddi skipper Anup Kumar has been likened to MS Dhoni for his calmness even in the most crucial and intense moments of a match. And just like Dhoni won the cricket world cup for the country in 2011, Kumar also led India to the kabaddi world cup crown last year. But now, following that momentous win, the 33-year old has witnessed a change in the way kabaddi is perceived in the country.
“Cricket is undoubtedly the biggest sport in India, but I’m starting to see a change now. Ever since the PKL began, our sport has come really far. If you look at any other sport apart from cricket, kabaddi has overtaken them all,” Kumar said.
In terms of popularity, cricket has always been in pole position in our country, thereby overshadowing most other sports, with cricketers usually being put on a pedestal as opposed to other sportspersons. And understandably, Kumar is disappointed with the kind of treatment that Indian cricketers usually get.
“See, I’m not saying kabaddi is as popular as cricket right now, but I’m one hundred per cent sure that it’ll catch up by the time the next four to five seasons of PKL are played. Of course, that does play on my mind. Especially when I see cricketers surrounded by so much security and media. This feeling has reduced ever since the PKL has come up. But before that, since kabaddi wasn’t so popular, it really used to bother me,” he added.
Speaking of how the differential treatment used to affect him, Kumar said, “Even I represent the country, even I bring medals for the country, even I am the captain of the country in my sport, then why are they the only ones to get so much. No matter where they go, their food, travel, accommodation, security, everything is looked after so well. They aren’t even allowed to stop anywhere for too long. These things used to affect me. But like I said, I’m convinced that in the next four to five years these things will start happening with kabaddi players too."
In the first season of the PKL, Kumar was appointed the captain of U Mumba and he proved his worth by winning the most valuable player award. Moreover, he also led U Mumba to the title in the second season in 2015. Now, ahead of the fifth season which started yesterday, Kumar was retained by the Mumbai based franchise.
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