When the Pro Kabaddi League was incepted in 2014, nobody could have envisaged the route the game would take in the next few years and how acceptable the league would become to the Indian audience as well as in the global scenario. But the meteoric rise of the sport which always had a massive following in the rural section of the Indian society has pleasantly surprised everyone. From uncertain waters, Pro Kabaddi has emerged like a phoenix and is now the second most-watched league in the country, just behind the widely-popular Indian T20 League. Alongside this, it also occupies the second spot in terms of viewership.
In a country where sports have always been an integral part of culture and society, fostered in recent years by the continuous rise of talents in each and every field, a number of domestic leagues have been introduced to take sports to another level. Thus, even with sports enthusiasts in India spoilt for a variety of choices, Pro Kabaddi’s fandom has not seen a decline. Interestingly, if you go deep into the viewership statistics, you’d see that in seven years the Pro Kabaddi comfortably sits as the second-most loved league of the nation. Alongside that, the league has contributed enormously to the sport with various grassroots programmes which are churning out promising young players every season.
Kabaddi as a sport has been a part of India since ages and played by almost everyone in their childhood. But none believed that it could turn into a global sport with a commercial value attached to it. It needed visionaries in Charu Sharma and Deoraj Chaturvedi and later the Star network to take up the risk and plan it out in such a way that it becomes an engrossing sport to watch both in the stadiums as well as on television.
This is India’s biggest sporting league in terms of the number of teams participating in it with 12 as of now. Some of the best marketing personnel and contact sports specialists were roped in to give this sport a new life and increase its entertainment quotient so that the mass as a whole connects with it. They did exactly that by coming out with tag lines like ‘Le Panga’ which literally translates to ‘start a fight’ that imbibed a sense of competitiveness to Pro Kabaddi. Several unique changes to the game’s archaic format were also implemented to interest the common people. To up the entertainment level, they also got big stars from the Hindi film industry to visit the stadium and show their love for the sport. And it just didn’t stop at that. They also roped in the legendary Amitabh Bachchan as the brand ambassador of the league.
Apart from what it did to the sport as a whole, the revolution that it has brought in the life of players is unprecedented as well. From playing the sport out of sheer passion alongside their daily jobs, the players have come on to earn millions in recent years. Monu Goyat holds the record of the highest-paid Pro Kabaddi player ever as he was picked up in the Season 6 auction for a whopping 1.51 crores, while in Season 7, Siddharth Desai emerged as the highest-paid athlete, thanks to his 1.45 crore salary package.
Apart from the apparent monetary support that kabaddi players have received, there is also the fact that some of them have gone on to become household names in the country. Players like Anup Kumar, Rahul Chaudhari, Pardeep Narwal and Ajay Thakur amongst several others have created a special place for themselves and are considered as national sporting icons.
The future for the sport and Pro Kabaddi augurs well as the Indian Federation are pushing for it to be included in the Olympics. If that works out, then the sky would be the limit for both the sport and the Indian team, whose international dominance is known to many.
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