Thought Bubble: my sales pitch for the lovely sport of Kabaddi


Rob Le Cates

Nicholas Bays is a fifth year sports media relations major and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

Nick Bays, Columnist

Picture this: you walk into the “Big Sports Galore” store and hear a ring of a doorbell behind you. You have been here countless times whenever you are looking for entertainment.

It is easy for you to come in here and select something. However, you normally hang out in the section of the store you are most familiar with. You are used to your classics like watching baseball, catching a football game, seeing some basketball, and so on.

Eventually, though, you find yourself becoming burnt out with the regular stuff. Yeah, sure, it’s high-quality sporting action, and there is comfort in consuming what you know.

But today is different.

You walk past the sales reps of your normal sports, going beyond the main isles and stands that you have grown accustomed to and venture deeper into “Big Sports Galore.”

Now you begin to find yourself in a whole new world. Racquets and spheres of various kinds you have never seen and rule books to games you cannot even pronounce all stare at you as you find yourself beyond any sense of familiarity.

And there, emerging from behind a counter, is a purple haired, plus-sized early 20s lad who approaches you and attempts to grab your attention. He wears a red, blue, and slightly purple jersey with orange and yellow accents you have never seen before that reads, “Dabang Delhi KC.”

The man begins to wave at you and says, “Excuse me, fellow sports enthusiast, you look like someone who’s looking for something new!”

You awkwardly nod your head because while this dude is clearly a sports hipster nerd, he is right. You are looking for something new. Not necessarily something to replace what you already love, but something to shake things up, something fresh to add into your already well-refined sporting palette.

“Well, trust me, friend, I’ve been there before. Can I call you friend? That’s not important. What is important is this sport I want to show you. This is a real game changer, an emerging star, and something I think you should try getting behind.”

You begin to raise your hand and are about to ask what he’s on about but are abruptly interrupted when the purple-haired silly man cuts you off and says, “welcome, my friend, to the intoxicating and addictive world of Kabaddi.”

Long-winded introductions aside, welcome back awesome readers. For this week’s edition of Thought Bubble, I thought I would share my thoughts with you all on the wonderful sport of Kabaddi and why I think you should give it a try. Wait, no, do not contact my editor. I swear this will be cool.

Kabaddi is a fun and exciting team sport that is predominantly played in India but has grown a presence in various countries around the world. Two teams clash on a limited area of play in which one team sends a player or a “raider” into the other team’s half with alternating cycles of this for two 20-minute halves.

The objective of this lone player: tag as many people as you can and get back into your own half without being stopped. Every person you tag is worth a point and is sent off until all seven of the other team’s players are sent off. Then, you get an additional amount of points when all seven are eliminated and have to be brought back on.

However, if you are tackled before you get back to your own half (yes, tackled and tackled hard in some cases), you are sent off and the defending team gets a point. Each one of these “raids” on a defending team lasts 30 seconds maximum (or mumbling the word “kabaddi” in one breath, but the VIVO Pro Kabaddi league uses the 30 second rule and I think it’s awesome).

Now, I’m going to be real with you all. I love Kabaddi, but I am still new to this game. I started watching it maybe two and a half years ago and that makes me far from an expert. So, for a better breakdown of the rules, here is a helpful YouTube video that can better explain the rules of the competition.

So, for my Kabaddi sales pitch, I have a few reasons why I think you just might enjoy the sport if you give it a chance. For starters, it’s extremely accessible all things considered.

Reason 1: Accessibility

In a shocking twist of fate, there are sadly no Kabaddi courts or fields in Coles County as far as my memory is concerned. However, that does not mean there’s no space to play.

Think about the space needed for a Kabaddi playing area. You could fit that within a tennis or pickle ball court. You could slap some cones for boundaries on a grass field or a sandy volleyball spot and play there.

And you don’t need any fancy equipment to play. No pads, no fancy balls, no elaborate set ups to make the game playable.

All you need is a place to play, some markers for boundaries, and some people to play with. It could be as casual as burning some steam after a fun meal or something, or you could go a step beyond that and make your own teams to play.

How cool would it be if we had a Coles County Kabaddi Association? Or high school teams or maybe even an EIU team! The possibilities are endless! Wait, that’s my editor Adriana. She said to stay focused. Okay I’m sorry, let me take a step back. I got too lost in my little fantasy land.

But for those who are looking to get into Kabaddi, the nice thing about it is that there aren’t major barriers from preventing people from actually playing. And if you are worried about tackling, you could honestly play it like flag football where instead of tackling the raider, you can just try to pull their flags.

Reason 2: High Level Pro League

You know how I said that Kabaddi is accessible? Well, that helps the game produce high level talent. There are many professional/semi-pro Kabaddi teams and leagues out there, but the big dog league is VIVO Pro Kabaddi based in India.

With 12 teams across the country, there is a high level of talent in the league that showcases the best of the best in the sport. It’s top-level athleticism that places an emphasis on physicality, agility, and timing.

Big names like Naveen Kumar (a raider for my Dabang Delhi KC) and Pawan Sehrawat (my personal favorite player in the league for Tamil Thalaivas) have carved up the league for years now.

Kumar brings unmatched agility as a point-getter. His footwork reminds you of elite running backs in the NFL. His feet are constantly in motion, and he moves in brilliant flashes. Considered arguably the best offensive player in the league, Kumar would probably be the top pick if I were in a Kabaddi fantasy league.

Now enter Pawan Sehrawat. Big and powerful, you’d think his game was based on his strength. And while he is far from a pushover, do not let his stature fool you. This man is quick, and boy oh boy, is he cunning.

Although he missed last season for the Thavailas due to an injury, he was an absolutely unstoppable all-around force for the Bengaluru Bulls.

Need a top-tier interior defender? He’s got you. Need an outside defender who is tasked with closing down high-risk tackle opportunities that could make or break a game? No sweat. And do you need a smart raider who can calculate risk and reward and map out the field of play one step ahead of anyone else? Sit back, relax, and let the man cook.

When this dude comes back next season, you best believe he will be ready to play.

The season itself runs from October to December or January for the most part. And with the league entering its 10th official season, it is going to be a spectacle to watch.

“But Nick, that overlaps with the NBA, NFL, and other stuff I like!”

Well, here’s the thing, champ: Kabaddi games take place in the morning here because of the time difference between us and India meaning you can watch the games to start your day and not interfere with the sports you want to watch that night.

Also, if you’re worried about the games taking up too much time, each game consists of two 20-minute halves. In total, from start to finish, you are looking at a top-level Kabaddi game with thrilling action and intensity that lasts around an hour.

And with the league and teams growing their social media presences, missing games does not mean missing the action. The league is becoming ever more accessible which means you can catch highlights and results online if you miss out.

Like every good league, there are players and storylines to follow. Teams looking to prove themselves, players looking for redemption, there is always something to draw and keep your interest.

Oh, and for you folks who want an exciting playoff run, the league has you covered. While the league follows a points table system similar to most soccer leagues, it also pulls an MLS by having that while also using the seeding from that system to determine playoff positions.

So, number one in the regular season is cool, but it is all wasted if you are not ready for the sixth seed who is gearing up for a Cinderella story title run.

Here’s the highlights from last year’s championship between the Jaipur Pink Panthers and Puneri Paltan:

Reason 3: USA! USA! USA!

Well. . . sort of. Let’s not get it twisted, Kabaddi is far from a main staple in the American sporting landscape.

However, that doesn’t mean there is not a presence. Actually, the United States boasts both a men’s and women’s national Kabaddi team.

International competitions are held in the sport which provides nations with teams to root for and go win it all. And while the United States is being patient in its efforts, it’s not shying away from wanting to win.

In fact, the National Kabaddi Federation is hoping to win gold in the Olympics for Kabaddi in 2032. And they’re not just going in blind and saying, “alright, gang, go out there and win!” No, they have a plan as to how they want to go about it. And if you want to see what that plan looks like, check out the road map the NKF wants to follow in the coming years.

In Conclusion:

Basically, Kabaddi is a fun and exciting sport that might be able to shake up your regular sporting climate and inject it with something fresh. While it’s an ancient sport, it might be new to you.

The sport’s accessible nature makes it easy for those who are curious to engage in it and try it for themselves. Part of the reason I love football and basketball so much is for that exact reason: I got to play them and watch them.

The growing top league in India also showcases high level talent on a professional, high-quality broadcast that gives sports fans everything they love: underdogs, powerhouses, and naturally some drama as well.

Finally, it’s not just a sport played in India. It’s worldwide, and it’s even in the United States. With men’s and women’s national teams, you can root for any teams you want including your own (for you United States-based readers).

So come on! Give Kabaddi a try! It’s the perfect sport to shake up your norm and give you something new and exciting to try on!

If you don’t like it, no judgment. Respect for trying. But if you do like it, welcome to the club. We’re glad to have you, and Dabang Delhi is going all the way next year. I can feel it.

Thank you for reading this week’s edition of Thought Bubble. Thought Bubble is a weekly recurring sports column that is designed to humorously discuss sporting ideas that, while perhaps ridiculous, are intriguing, nonetheless.