Sports

Bengaluru Bulls gear up for Pro Kabaddi League

Kabaddi player, Sunil Hanumanthappa

Kabaddi player, Sunil Hanumanthappa

Sunil Hanumanthappa has been playing kabaddi for the last 10 years. During his initial days, he started training with a club in Vijayanagar. Hailing from Tumkur, it was only three years ago that he started playing professional kabaddi and has participated in the National Junior Championships in 2010 and has secured a place in the Karnataka State team.

This year, the second year student got another big break as he was selected to be part of Bengaluru Bulls, the franchise from Bangalore in the Pro Kabaddi League.

Members of Benguluru Bulls, the team representing Bangalore in the Pro Kabaddi League

Members of Benguluru Bulls, the team representing Bangalore in the Pro Kabaddi League

The league, backed by the International Kabaddi Federation (IKF), the Asian Kabaddi Federation (AKF) and the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (AKFI), will feature eight teams from the country who will vie for the title. The tournament will travel to cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Jaipur, Patna, Vizag, Pune and will culminate with a final in Bangalore on August 31.

The Bengaluru Bulls team comprises some top-notch talent in the country. They are hoping for  a successful campaign, beginning July 26 in Mumbai. Along with Sunil, who is the only one representing Karnataka, there’s 28 year old Ajay Thakur, who is considered one of the country’s best raiders. Then there’s their captain, gold medalist Manjeet Chillar who has played at the Asian Indoor Games and the Asian Games. Defender, Gurpreet Singh, popularly called ‘The Wall’ boasts a Gold Medal at the 2004 National Championships and the 2010 South Asian Games. The policeman, has played kabaddi at the highest levels such as the National Championships and the South Asian Federation Games. The 12-member team also has three foreign players – Micheal Dubery from United Kingdom (Defender), I Ketut Ariana from Indonesia (Defender) and Sinotharan Kanesharajah from Sri Lanka (Raider).

“The indigenous sport of kabaddi, which probably is also the oldest, is definitely popular in the country,” says Akhil Ranade from Kosmik Global Media, owner of Bengaluru Bulls. However, in the same breath he mentions that the game lacks the much-needed infrastructure and facilities. “Karnataka is only second in terms of participation, just after Maharashtra. There are over 300 registered clubs in the state. But we do not have great infrastructural facilities. Most importantly, there still exists the stigma that kabaddi is a ‘rural’ sport, it does not have an aspirational value unlike cricket or football.” But he is optimistic that the Pro Kabaddi League will change this mindset. The league games, which will be broadcast live by a prime TV channel, will definitely take the game to the masses, he believes.

“When it is on TV, it is recognised,” he asserts.

Coached by renowned player and coach, Randhir Singh, the team resides at a club on Mysore Road, away from city, so that they can prepare for the tournament and bond as a unit. Sunil says, “We start our training at six in the morning. We hit the gym and the pool. In the evening, our kabaddi training is from 5 to 7 pm when we also have running and stretching exercises.”

The team has the hope of lifting the title in the maiden year of the championship. But that is not all. Akhil reveals, “We want to become the most successful franchise in the tournament with a good, balanced team. Having said that, we want the team to be with us for the long haul. We also have plans of developing kabaddi in partnership with the regional State Federation. We will identify local talent and give them a platform where they can train and grow.”

Published on July 21, 2014 in The New Indian Express.

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‘All we want to do is enjoy the game’

Virat Kohli first came into the limelight in 2008 when he became the captain of the Under-19 World Cup team. Since then, the suave player has made a name for himself as the batsman of the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB).

Suave cricketer

Suave cricketer

He even played an important role in Team India’s victory in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. At the launch of Flying Machine’s new collection ‘Blue Label’ in the City, Virat spoke to Metrolife about cricket, fashion and Bangalore.

He is quite excited about his team’s performance in the Champions League series. But the RCB player says that while winning is important, the team just wants to put on a good show. He asserts, “In the first few games, we were a little desperate and just wanted to win. But now, since we have crossed the big hurdle, we have to focus on playing good cricket.” Ask him about the kind of strategies the team is going to use and he replies nonchalantly, “We do not have any strategies in mind. All we want to do is go out there, enjoy the game and give our best.”

However, he says cricket has changed a lot over the years. Though the game has different formats today, Virat feels these should not change the goals of any cricketer. According to him, for any cricketer, playing Test cricket is the best achievement and an experience in itself. “When I started playing, my aim was to play Test cricket. I feel that
One Day Internationals (ODIs) are the best way for a cricketer to grow. While Twenty20 cricket is enjoyable, we should concentrate more on ODIs and Test cricket,” he avers.

Ask about his training regime for the Twenty20 games and he says, “Earlier, you could just go on with regular training and play. But now with Twenty20, the training is more power-based and depends on what kind of an athlete you are. Another important thing is what your team wants out of you,” he says.

Apart from cricket, he is looking forward to the Formula One Grand Prix that is going to happen in Delhi. He adds, “I am not much of an F1 fan. But it will be a thrilling experience to watch it live in action. If I get a chance to be there, I will surely go.”

So does he play any other sport? “No. I am busy with cricket almost the entire year. When I manage to get some free time, I simply hang out with my friends to unwind.”

About his personal style statement, he says, “I am an out-and-out denim person. When I am not on the pitch, you will see me in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. Comfort is the best fashion statement.” He gets nostalgic at the mention of Bangalore. “I have always loved this place. I have been coming here for eight years and it is like a second home to me.”

Published: Deccan Herald

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