Mumbai: The Season 2 of the eight-team Star Sports Pro Kabaddi League kicks off here at the NSCI Stadium on Saturday with hosts and last year's runners-up U Mumba clashing with defending champions Jaipur Pink Panthers.
The fans of this rustic, rural sport that originated in the sub continent and is an Asian Games discipline in which the country bag its only gold medal in the 1990 Beijing Asiad, are keeping their fingers crossed that Season 2 lives up to the promise of the inaugural edition held last year.
The novelty of watching this game on a synthetic indoor mat instead of on its traditional mud pitch outdoors was one of the reasons for its success last year.
For this season squad strength of each outfit has been increased from 14 to 25 to allow teams greater freedom to not only field local and young talent, but to also ensure that they are not adversely affected by injuries.
The first leg of the season is scheduled to run from tomorrow up to July 22 after which the action is to shift to Kolkata, home of the Bengal Warriors.
Subsequently the league would move on to Jaipur, Patna (home of Patna Pirates), Hyderabad (new home of Telugu Titans from last year's Vishakapatnam), Delhi (home of Dabang Delhi), Bengaluru (home of Bengaluru Bulls) and then Pune (home of Puneri Paltan).
The action would shift back to the NSCI here when the semi finals are held on August 21 followed by the 3-4 placings game and the final (both scheduled on August 23).
According to chief promoter of the League, Charu Sharma of Mashal Sports, the prize money this year has been doubled from last year to the tune of Rs two crore.
"The winning team gets Rs 1 crore, the runner-up Rs 50 lakh, the third-placed team Rs 30 lakh and the fourth-placed team Rs 20 lakh," he told PTI.
Sharma said though there were some hitches over the visa
approvals for foreign players, things have been sorted out now and all the players' visas have been approved.
The approval for visas includes those from Pakistan too.
Whether any player from India's western neighbours here in the first leg of the event depends on the green signal from the security authorities in Mumbai in view of the constant opposition from Shiv Sena over Pakistan players' participation in sports events held in India, it was learnt.
"It's a very sensitive issue though it should be noted that Pakistan players are very good and the country's federation played a crucial role in the inclusion of kabaddi in the Asian Games," informed sources said.
The organisers are also looking to build on the impressive following Pro Kabaddi got in the first season which saw a record 435 million viewers tune in to watch the indigenous game on TV.
With an objective to nurture and grow the sport in its markets, it is to be broadcast in five languages, Kannada, Telugu and Marathi along with English and Hindi, across eight channels of the Star network.