“Kabaddi is more than just a sport. It is an amalgamation of physical and mental alertness, glitz and glamour, enthusiastic presenters, live TV coverage, celebrity’s’ presence and the ‘real superstars’ – the kabaddi players themselves. The adrenaline rush sport was here in the port city, which played host to Season 3. Witness the snippets of our conversation with the players of ‘Telugu Titans’.”
Rahul Chaudhari, Kabbadi Player Captain – Telugu Titans
A Childhood Passion
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Kabaddi is a sport that has always been closest to his heart. As a youngster he often played the game instead of paying attention to his studies despite his parents worrying that he’d come home with broken bones. His parents would urge him to give up and get an education instead, but the kabaddi aficionado would even skip meals for a chance to play.
In spite of participating in local tournaments, he thought he would have a regular job and career like everyone else; and accordingly, thanks to the game and sports quota, he had a chance of getting jobs in either the Indian army or the Indian railways. When he went to join the railways, he was queried about his educational qualification. On replying that he had only passed his tenth board, he was questioned about studying further. But playing kabaddi was all he was ever interested in.
A Star is Born
He never imagined that he would play professional kabaddi. Things have changed with the 22 year old leading the Telugu Titans now. He confesses to getting offers from other teams but turning them down because of the love and support he gets from his teammates and coach. Telugu Titans is now his family, his home. He’s even on-road to getting a degree now.
Recognition and Fame
He feels good when he’s recognised for doing what he has always loved. The team ratings keep improving and with new players in the unit, he hopes for a win this time around. All the teams have able players but he considers the Bangalore Bulls to be his main competition; with them, they won by near misses. When not busy winning tourneys and honing his skills, Rahul helps his father with farming at his hometown in Bijnor, UP.
Rahul likes Vizag and was hoping Season 3 would be held here. He hung out at the beach when he was here for the first season but he no longer finds the time to do so. He likes playing here because of the support and encouragement he gets from the crowd.
Dr. Ramesh Bhendigiri Coach
“My team follows training and wins games. I believe that following strategy even under pressure, works.”
With his father being a national level kabaddi player, Kabaddi is in his blood. Being a coach for the last 30 years, Dr. Ramesh Bhendigiri knows what it takes to win a match. A Dadoji Kondev Award winner who holds a PhD in kabaddi from the University of Pune, he has coached various international, state, university and district teams throughout the years. Before moving onto Telugu Titans, he coached the women’s kabaddi team that won Gold in the 2012 World Cup and the Thailand men and women teams that won Silver and Bronze during Asian Games.
When asked about coaching Telugu Titans, he says the opposing teams have good and experienced players, even Arjun award winners. But he is confident of his line-up, consisting of strong players that follow his strategy of not letting the opposition score in time. Time is everything in kabaddi, he says. He feels proud to be training such an able team and says it is rewarding when they bring home scores.
Rohit Baliyan Raider
One of the most competent raiders of the Telugu Titans, Rohit is a TTE in the South Eastern Railways when he isn’t playing kabaddi. He played with the railways team, before the Coach invited him to join Telugu Titans for the second season, and consequently the third. He used to play kabaddi in his village in UP – the same village Rahul Kumar also hails from, despite his father admonishing him for it. He helped his father with farming as he studied. He went on to win the Gold in Junior Nationals in Bhopal and there was no looking back after that. The father who admonished him then, now beams with pride that his son has made a career out of it.
When asked about his team, Rohit says that Telugu Titans is a young team and a strong one at that. When complimented on his raiding skills, he says he follows the instructions of the coach and nothing more. This is his first time in Vizag and he made the ritualistic trip to the beach. He likes the crowd in Vizag as they are supportive and encouraging. He hopes their hard work will pay off and Telugu Titans wins the league.
Sukesh Hegde Raider
A regular since the first season, the adept kabaddi player has gained attention ever since. The recognition both he and the game have earned seems to surprise and please him . It brings him joy that Pro Kabaddi is now popular all over India. With celebrities showing their support, he thinks it could get bigger with their involvement. Hailing from Mangalore, he now holds a job in Vijaya Bank when he isn’t playing kabaddi. Before Telugu Titans, he used to play for the bank.
Practicing the game and training whenever he isn’t at work has become the norm. Telugu Titans are such an able team that he feels good playing for them. The shy player likes the fact that Vizag shows interest in the sport.
Dharamraj Cheralathan Defender
Fondly called ‘anna’, the Thanjavur local first played professionally in 1999, making him the senior-most player in the Pro Kabaddi league. In the first season he was a Defender for the Bengaluru Bulls. When asked about the shift in season 3, he says he changed teams on his own accord to play for the Telugu Titans. Conversant in both, Tamil and Telugu, the 40 year old Tamilian had previously played for the Indian team and won Gold in the beach kabaddi tournament at the 2010 Asian Beach Games.
When asked if he ever thought Pro Kabaddi would gain such fame, he quips that he never thought so and seems proud of the fact that it is almost as popular as cricket now. The celebrity support kabaddi is now getting helps too, he says. A railway employee, Cheralathan says there’s no communication barrier between the team mates of Telugu Titans, despite each of them speaking different languages. He recognises their strength as a team and hopes they continue to play so.
When asked if he prefers to play in Vizag or Hyderabad, he chuckles that it doesn’t matter. However, Vizag, as a city, attracts him and he would come here more often if he could. He is also grateful for the support he gets here during matches.