The fifth season of the Pro Kabaddi League kicks off on July 28. It is a season that is expected to be bigger and better than ever before. After the tournament was played twice last year, this year as of now, the league is scheduled to take place just once.
But there are four teams that have been added for this season. There will be 12 teams that will be competing in the tournament this year.
The four new teams that have been added this year are Gujarat Fortunegiants, UP Yoddha, Tamil Thalaivas and Haryana Steelers.
It is fair to say that their addition is another positive step in a tournament that is high on confidence after not just being on the sporting calendar twice a year but also keeping in mind that the sport got a boost internationally when the national team won the World Cup last year.
Although it must be said that the team has won the World Cup pretty much every time but last year’s win was important since it came when there was spotlight on the sport unlike before.
The biggest achievement of kabaddi has been how it has made the most significant move forward with respect to how its league has got only more popular than before. It is special keeping in mind that other sports have struggled in this regard. They have leagues that are generally speaking are either stagnant or have shrunk.
Yes cricket is numero uno and kabaddi is yet to cut the gap and cannot even claim to be a true number two sport. But in a country where there is no second essential sport, it is kabaddi’s achievement that it is having a league that is unquestionably the second-most popular sports league in the country.
Football fans will object but the buzz around kabaddi’s league is unmistakable. We think that it is extremely liberating for the Pro Kabaddi League to add a whole season in one year and back it up with four new teams in the next season itself.
One must also take note that the Pro Kabaddi League this season will have 138 matches. That is a big number, comfortably beating other sports leagues in the country. It of course helps that kabaddi is not a time-consuming sport.
According to us, the upcoming season is a defining season for the sport since it is fair to say that this is a super ambitious plan to have so many games packed in one season. But if it does come off, you know that not just the sport but also the league is here to stay.
Another important factor that needs to be looked into is what the league can do as far as the overall popularity of the sport is concerned.
If the league can manage to capture the imagination of the sporting public outside of India, it will have at least a couple of benefits. It will not only give the league some extra mileage but will also help the sport become a proper international sport.
This fact should not be forgotten that kabaddi is basically a watched sport only in India. And even in the Indian context, the sport got a footing only post the start of the Pro Kabaddi League.
The other factor that can be looked into is that can a sport sustain itself in India if it is only a domestic sport? We have American football in the United States and Australian rules football in Australia. They are sports that are played by professionals in only one country and have yet found themselves perched at the top in their respective countries.
Kabaddi has taken the first step. Despite it being not a major sport internationally, it has a more than fair existence in India. Now it will have a two-fold challenge in the coming few years. It will want to thrust itself in becoming a major international sport and will want to become an essential, mainstream sport in India.
It must not be forgotten that thus far, kabaddi has only moved forward. It has been only three years that the Pro Kabaddi League began. It was in 2014 when 60 games were played. It was then that an unknown quantity received much love.
Today there are expectations from the sport. There are new discoveries to be made, new records to be set. Kabaddi has sort of an advantage and disadvantage rolled into one as far as its lack of international exposure is concerned.
While it keeps the sport away from the limelight for most of the year, it keeps fans fresh from not running out of juices to fill their craving for the sport.
One thing that still remains a challenge is for fans to connect with not just the league but also the franchises and the players.
It in the end only benefits the sport overall.