THE DECESION TO MAKE Star Sports Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) a biennial affair from this year received a big thumbs up from the players who feel the sport will receive a big boost.
The league started in 2014 with Jaipur Pink Panthers winning the inaugural edition. The 2015 edition saw U Mumba emerging as champions. In these two years, as claimed by promoters Mashal Sports director Charu Sharma, the popularity of the sport soared so high that it is the second most watched league in the country.
Charu said on Thursday during the launch ceremony of the third edition starting on January 30 that the eight-franchise league's bi-annual plans have stemmed from the huge popularity that the sport has garnered. With a high demand for the sport from fans across the country, the promoters are making conscious efforts to make the PKL a grander affair.
The players too have backed this idea, saying that it will help them stay in top shape through the better part of the year.
"In earlier years, we used to train to a greater degree when we were about to play a tournament be it domestic or international. Otherwise the national camps would run. But playing competitive kabaddi is an altogether different experience," Dabang Delhi player Wazir Singh, who captained Puneri Paltan for the last two years, said.
Moreover, unlike in World Cups or Asian Games or the National Championship, a player has to maintain his intensity levels for five to six weeks while playing in the PKL.
Apart from this, youngsters will be encouraged to turn professional as the players will earn decent money.
"For all, it is a good situation," Jaipur skipper Navneet Gautam, a three-time Asian Games champion, opined. "Because of the television coverage, kabaddi's popularity has surged and two editions will give a big boost in this regard."
This season, Vizag, which hosted several matches in the first year, is back on the calendar and will host the opening leg, with home team Telugu Titans taking on U Mumba.
The play-offs will take place at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in New Delhi on March 4 and 5.
"The past two seasons have proven that the country is ready to not only watch and accept more of Star Sports Pro Kabaddi, but also form loyalties toward players and teams. Season three will only reinforce the loyalties," International Kabaddi Federation (IKF) chief Janardan Singh Gehlot said.