Captain Cool, Anup Kumar retires from Kabaddi

Legendary Kabaddi player, Anup Kumar announced his retirement today as his team, Jaipur Pink Panthers played during the teams’ home leg match for VIVO Pro Kabaddi League Season VI, at Panchkula. The iconic player concludes a historic 15-year career, where he has led several teams to victory and grown the sport in the country.

A veteran in his sport, Arjuna Awardee, Anup Kumar began his international career in 2006 at the South Asian Games in Sri Lanka. He was part of the Indian National Kabaddi team that won gold medals in 2010 and 2014. Thereafter, he captained the Indian National team in 2014 and it was during his tenure that the team won 2 gold medals at Asian Games in 2014 and the Kabaddi World Cup in 2016. In season 2 of the Pro Kabaddi League, Anup captained U Mumba and led the team to victory.

Announcing his retirement, Anup Kumar said, “When I started playing kabaddi, I was invested in the sport because I liked it and it was a great hobby, over the years a hobby became the most important part of my life. The day I took to playing kabaddi professionally, I had one dream, to represent my country and bring back a gold medal, I am one of the few lucky people who had the opportunity to accomplish the most important dream of my life. Today, with the Pro Kabaddi League, the magnitude of the sport has grown leaps and bounds and I could not be happier than to watch and grow and be a part of this journey. This platform is an extremely important aspect of my life and that is why today I use the platform to make this announcement. Coincidentally, today is also the 10th birthday of my son, and that makes this date even more memorable. Going forward, if there is anything I am confident about, it is knowing that I will always want to be connected to the sport.”

Reacting to the announcement, League Commissioner of VIVO Pro Kabaddi League Anupam Goswami, said, “This is a great decision by a great player from a great stage of kabaddi. It is also for the first time a senior player has announced his retirement of his playing career during an ongoing season of VIVO Pro Kabaddi. Just shows the importance kabaddi players attach to a league like Pro Kabaddi. Anup of course has been a senior player and a role model athlete for this sport. We totally respect his decision.

It is well recognized that Pro Kabaddi has had a profound impact on the emergence of the sport on the global stage. Anup has played such a crucial role and a distinguished role in the process. He has established himself as a role model by his sportsman spirit, by the competitiveness of his captaincy as well as his play. He will continue to impress Kabaddi players for a long time. I am sure that this retirement decision of his career relates only to him as a player and he will continue his engagement and involvement with Kabaddi in various roles.  In that process as well, I am sure he will emerge as role model for kabaddi players.”

Ronnie Screwvala, team owner U Mumba, said, “When I heard of Anup Kumar’s retirement, I have to say it didn’t surprise me because he is one of the smartest and intelligent players in Kabaddi. He gets his sense of timing on the field and I think he gets his timing when he is looking at his own career off the field as well.

One thinks sometimes that retirement is the end, but it is the beginning of another challenge in your life. Also, for a lot of people whether they are in the professional world, in the field of art and culture, knowing when to call it a day is as important as what you have done; and I think there is a certain sense of astute that follows Anup Kumar in this as well. The timing that he chose is really at the peak and there is no question that he is at the best of his career. As far as I know Anup, he chose this moment, as a gesture to say - you need to respect younger talent and make way for them. It is a huge precedent for other players that look at the sport like a very finite thing in your career whether you’re young or it is a tenure period, let’s make the most out of it.

The good part I think is that Anup made the most out of it and at the same time he is starting a new innings in Kabaddi- he can play any role he wants to- he can champion the cause, he can be the brand ambassador, he can be a coach, he can be a mentor, he can start the whole ground service to many people and I think he has gotten his timing right.

For me personally, I think it’s a great tribute because 5 out of the 6 seasons he has played with U Mumba, I can only recall the time we all gathered at a small hotel for the first auction and everyone was starting to get familiar. To us, players were a picture and statistics and there wasn’t that much of statistic. That time instinctively between the coach and Supratik, CEO U Mumba and I picked on Anup and it was instinctive when we met them, the level of his maturity, the level of his respect for co-players. I think if I reflect, I know we branded him captain cool and then the commentators did and then everybody else did, all for good reasons, I think how he would take a loss and compensate with people. I think his thing about his demeanour when we have lost a game but not lost anything more than that. The tonality of that “Koi Baat Nahi” - there is a certain heaviness in his ‘Koi Baat Nahi’ and I have seen that tonality in season 1 and in season 5.”

Adding to the reactions, Abhishek Bachchan, team owner Jaipur Pink Panthers, said, “First of all when Anup Kumar told us about his retirement, we were very unhappy, because from the time I have been associated with kabaddi it is my belief that there is no one with his calibre. Whatever we have learnt from Anup from the time when he was with U Mumba, there was always love and respect for him. Anup is such a player who has been a role model. Everything that he has done for Kabaddi off the mat, with respect to the players, franchises, owners, his demeanour has always been extremely warm. Back in season 1 of Pro Kabaddi, I had told Anup, that I was waiting for the day when he will be seen in the Jaipur Pink Panthers jersey, and for all of us at Jaipur Pink Panthers it is a matter of great pride that he was our captain this season. Today, I am sad, because we won’t see him on the mat after this, but I really hope he will always be connected to the sport because everything that he has done for the sport in the past is something that no one can replicate.  On behalf of our entire Jaipur Pink Panthers team, we would like to wish Anup, all the best for all his future endeavours, and congratulations on possibly one of the greatest sporting careers in India.

After asked what young players should learn from Anup, Abhishek Bachchan said, I think young players should make their own style, and not try to copy Anup, because Anup is only one. But there is one thing I would like to say, they should try and be like Anup off the mat, Anup’s dedication and his humility is what they should imbibe. I think he is one of the greatest sportsmen India has ever had, he is grounded, humble, extremely polite and always there for his peers, especially the younger athletes and this is what everyone should pick up.

It is very difficult to map how much the kabaddi universe will miss Anup, he has been a beacon for the kabaddi universe, set the standards, it is going to be difficult for anyone to match up to this standard. Anup Kumar is a legend and will continue to be a legend.”


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