The nature of Covid-19 has impacted each discipline differently, with contact sports like Kabaddi, Boxing, Wrestling, and even Taekwondo taking huge blows compared to other sports. SportsCafe caught up with Kadaddi expert Raju Bhavsar, who explained why the sport suffered the most due to lockdown.
The crown for the most-watched sports in India has already been claimed by cricket a few decades back, but people in this part of the world do care about other disciplines too - even though it occurs once in a while. The recent waves have shown a sharp inclination of common folk taking a keen interest in Olympic sports - 'cause what better place to boast of achievements than the world’s greatest spectacle. While Indian athletes were gearing up for the 2020 Tokyo Games, the Covid-19 pandemic had shattered all such Olympic dreams and left them stranded at home for more than six months. But the growing interest has always kept the athletes at the forefront of the news, even during extraordinary times.
Now, the nature of the deadly virus has impacted each discipline differently. For instance, Badminton, Table Tennis, Tennis, Shooting being non-contact sports, will enjoy a slight advantage over sports like Boxing, Wrestling, and even Taekwondo. Naturally, resumption of non-contact sports was fast-tracked when compared to the rest, even though most of the sporting activities are now being staged under strict regulations, with various bio-secure bubbles in place. Meanwhile, combat sports like Wrestling and Boxing are taking small strides towards normalcy. Unfortunately, we do have a case which is a contact sport as well as a non-Olympic one at the same time - Kabaddi, the discipline which has taken the most beating in these trying times.
“The lockdown due to covid pandemic has hit kabaddi the most compared to other sports. Kabaddi is a unique sport where many players come in physical contact with each other at any given time. The risk of getting contracted while playing kabaddi is very high due to the combative nature of the sport. The defenders are always in very close proximity to each other. They hold each other's hands to form defensive patterns,” said Raju Bhavsar, former Kabaddi Player, during an interview with SportsCafe.
“A raider is constantly saying kabaddi-kabaddi and it is highly likely that other players may get in contact with his saliva droplets. During tackles, there is a scrum where many players are in physical contact. One infected player can spread the infection. Considering all these risks the government and federation may not be allowed to resume competitive kabaddi in near future. Kabaddi is going to suffer the max,” added the retired player.
We cannot argue that Kabaddi is one of the most followed sports in India. Especially after the inception of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), the popularity has reached sky-high. For the records, the PKL is the second most-watched league in India, only behind the glamorous Indian Premier League (IPL). But the current situation has not only put us on the verge of losing an entire season of PKL, the popularity of the game in India has also taken a huge hit.
“Pro Kabaddi is the second most-watched sports league in India. Due to the Corona pandemic, season 8 of PKL was stalled and it is not sure when it will be held. A long gap in the events hampers the popularity of the sport. Kabaddi is not an Olympic sport yet, hence the consistent visibility is a must to attract and engage the audience,” added Bhavsar.
“The innumerable followers of kabaddi are eagerly waiting for next season of pro kabaddi league. We all hope that after the successful conduct of IPL the Govt will grant permission to league organizers of PKL to conduct the next season.”
Even though Kabaddi is not a part of the Olympics, the sport does have an appeal internationally, with it very much included in the Asian Games - the second most prestigious multi-sports event. India leads the all-time medals tally with nine Gold medals since Kabaddi was inducted in 1990. It is for the same reason the Government of India has taken certain steps to keep the flow within the system, even though physical training is not at all possible until we get rid of the virus for good.
“The Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, Govt of India, Sports Authority of India and State Governments have supported kabaddi very well. Hon. Sports Minister Mr. Kiren Rijeju have extended maximum help & support to promote kabaddi. He has assured the nation that he will do all possible to get kabaddi included in the Olympics. SAI has regularly organised many webinars on various aspects of the game. A regular E pathshala is conducted for upcoming players by SAI,” stated the Kabaddi expert.
Whatever the situation, the immediate aim for the Indian team is to reclaim the Gold medal at the Asiad, which was owned by them until the last edition, where Iran grabbed top honours in both the Men’s and Women’s event. But, till then, there are a few hurdles to cross, which, as per Raju, is not a big issue, with the event in Hangzhou still a couple of years away. By then, hopefully, the situation will die down and the players will get enough practice time to bring the Gold medal home once again.
“I don't think the pandemic is going to cause a major disruption in the 2022 Asian Games preparations. We are in 2020 and there is enough time for the Indian team for practice camps. Considering that Asian Games will be held in the second half of 2022 then the first half is sufficient for the team combination. Players are getting enough time to upkeep their highest fitness level. We have learned a lesson from the defeat in the last Asian Games and will not leave any stone unturned to reverse the result. I'm quite confident that the new generation of players under the able guidance of senior coaches will bring back the Gold and the glory,” concluded Bhavsar.