Siblings on the same team in sports isn’t rare – growing up playing the same sport and you find yourself with probably the person who knows you the best on your side.

In kabaddi, Bengal Warriors have their own special sibling pair – Shubham and Aditya Shinde. Shubham, 25, is the older brother as the much-vaulted right corner in the Warriors defence, while Aditya is the younger brother, in the left corner position.

On January 15, as Jaipur geared up to celebrate 1000 matches in the Pro Kabaddi League, it was this Shinde combination that guided Bengal to a splendid 35-29 win over Bengaluru Bulls in the landmark match of the league.

“My two [cousin] brothers used to play at home,” recalled Shubham Shinde, who hails from Kolkewari, a village in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra.

“After that, my younger brother started first, and then I started. I used to go to the [local] ground and then I used to watch what they were doing, what they were practicing.”

As his interest in the sport grew, his eyes also diverted to the other sport his brother played – cricket. But what motivated him to stick with kabaddi?

“I joined a club in the village where I met Jagdish Shinde,” said Shinde about his childhood coach. “He created space for me as a right corner, as he also used to play right corner. It was a big thing for me because he was still playing.”

Having Jagdish Shinde as his coach inspired Shinde to progress rapidly through the state age groups – it was in 2014 that the now 25-year-old entered the junior state team and then senior nationals for two years.

It was during this time that at a tournament in Mumbai, where Shinde was representing Air India, that Yuva Paltan, the youth program of the Puneri Paltan team, noticed his prowess and strength as a right corner.

Going through academy training, Shinde was finally promoted to the big leagues in 2018 when he signed a contract with the Pune based franchise as a ‘New Young Player’ in Season 6.

Mindset and mentality

“Those two years were special for me. Because I was the first NYP player from Maharashtra in Season 6,” said Shinde about his start in the PKL.

“I was in a team of a lot of seniors in season 6 and 7, so those two seasons were very special to me.”

Season 8 saw him shift for a single-season stint to Patna Pirates before establishing himself as one of the mainstays in the Bengal defence.

Across his first two seasons, the promise that was noticed by Pune in the tournament was on display as he racked up 29 points in 23 matches with five super tackles.

However, it was when the defender joined the Bengal team that he truly began to shine. Under the tutelage of K Baskaran, the Bengal coach, and the guidance of veteran raider Maninder Singh, Shinde bloomed in Season 9, playing 20 matches and scoring 43 tackle points, including four super tackles. However, his team would finish second-from-last and fail to qualify for the play-offs.

In the current season, Shubham has stepped up as an able leader of the defence and as a captain also, in the absence of Singh.

The partnership that the two leaders of the Bengal Warriors share was on display when both of them combined lead the team to victory against Tamil Thalaivas in Bengaluru back in December 2023. Singh was in fine form with 16 raid points, but it was Shinde who was the star of the night with 11 tackle points.

When asked about what makes him the type of defender he is, the youngster explained that it is the ability to adapt according to the game.

“It comes from within. It is very important because the right corner is a big responsibility to make the team a good team. The right corner is very important because the raider is always on the corner and can't be played on the cover,” said Shinde, who is currently sixth on the list of top defenders in Season 10.

The corners are crucial to the way the team moves as a whole unit and usually are the ones that initiate the tackle, successful or otherwise.

For Shinde, it is also this camaraderie that he shares with his brother that helps him in games where he and Aditya are their team’s respective corners.

“I told my brother a lot about my experience but he said he doesn’t care and that he’s going to play openly.”

Another family member also keeps a close eye on his games and reaches out with advice and critique.

“Whenever we get the phone after the match, my dad calls me immediately,” said Shinde.

“[If we lost], he asks, what's wrong? He used to tell me to not be scared and play with coolness. Even [Jagdish Shinde] coach used to tell me that I was scared in this match so I had to play with coolness.”

The spirit and confidence with which Shinde plays has been cultivated over the years, as he transitioned from a substitute to a confirmed starter for his team.

As Bengal inch their way towards a possible play-off spot, Shinde’s indomitable spirit and talent continues to power them along.