'Kabaddi, Kabaddi, Kabaddi' seems to be the sport anthem of the nation as the 2016 IKF Kabaddi World Cup being hosted in India commences from October 7.
For a nation where cricket is like a religion and cricketers revered to as demigods, there have been other sports where India has proved its mantle on the world stage.
For most sports critics and pundits, Indian have traditionally been known to produce world class sportsmen in sports which involve artistry, precision, mental strength and individual brilliance.
The Indians had a chess wizard in Vishwanathan Anand, some ace marksmen in Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang and Jitu Rai and brilliant cueist in Geet Sethi and Pankaj Advani who have been masters at their own trait. But one has to say that Field hockey and Kabaddi are the two exceptions to this widely accepted sterotype that has been hanging around Indian sports for a long time.
Both Field hockey and Kabaddi are team sport that require a combination of strength, stamina, athleticism, flexibility and artistry. So for those critics who never quite rated the Indians high on the physical aspects of sports, the Indians have answered their call by holding their fort in Kabbadi and hockey at the world stage.
In field hockey, the Indians had their hey days in hockey from the 30's to the 60's when India were the undisputed Olympic champion.During that era, India won six consecutive golds at the Olympic Games, a record which might stand the test of time. The other sport in which India has always been a powerhouse is Kabbadi.
India has enjoyed a long period of hegemony in the home grown sport. India has been the undisputed world champion of Kabaddi by winning the coveted World title for a record seven consecutive times. Besides this glitering achievement, India have won the Gold medal at the every edition of the Asian games since the inception of the sport in the multi-sport event.
Field hockey drew a wider appeal as it was an Olympic sport and played by sporting powerhouses like Germany, Australia and the Netherlands. Unfortunately Kabaddi which has been mainly confined to the realms of the Sub-continent and West Asian region has never quite caught the imagination of the global sporting diaspora.
Long under the shadows of more popular sports like cricket, soccer, tennis and badminton, Kabbadi has eventually made a mark in the Indian sports arena and created a place in the hearts of the Indian sports lovers.
The Kabbadi league has to be credited for making the sport popular among the sports fanatics of the country. It has given the sport a pan India audience which otherwise was limited to the rural pockets of the country.
For every sport to grow there has to be an ideal platform for players to showcase their skills and get rewarded for the efforts they put in. Money spinning leagues backed by corporates have been the important cog in the wheel for revolutionizing the sport. Be it the Indian Premier League for cricket or the Indian Badminton League for Badminton, it proved wonders for the popularizing the sport, making it commercially viable and improving the standards of the sport.
The big corporate houses have pumped in money into the franchises and the results are there to show. The presence of Bollywood stars and former sporting greats as owners of franchises has made the league a star studded affair.
In terms of popularity, the Royal Challengers Bangalore, Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knightriders of the IPL might still rule the roost but the Patna Pirates, U Mumba and Bengal Tigers have certainly got their loyalist who back their teams to the hilt.
The league has transformed Kabbadi players into youth icons. The likes of Manjeet Chillar, Anup Kumar and Sandeep Narwal have created an identity of their own and become the brand ambassadors of their sport. There seems to be a connect with the sport as it brings in an essence of a home bred sport.
The league has put Indian Kabbadi on the global map and become a sought after destination for global stars to compete under one arena. The league has been labelled as the best league in the world and attracted overseas players to play and complete alongside the best Indian names in the game.
With just three days to go for the Kabbadi World Cup, the Indian players are eager to prove that they are the undisputed kings of the sport in front of their home fans.