The Pro Kabaddi League has definitely changed the sport in more ways than one. But the most telling alterations were the subtle tweaks to the rules that made the game faster and appealing to the viewers.
Reducing the raid duration to 30 seconds, addition of the bonus line, do-or-die raids, and super tackles helped the game to be more eventful, at the same time offering teams more chances to get back into the contest and maintain the balance of the game.
While most rules have made a positive impact on the game, few rules have left the fans scratching their heads.
One such rule is penalising the defenders that follow the raider into the lobbies without a struggle or a touch.
Lobbies are the yellow strips on the sides of a Pro Kabaddi playing area that only come into play once a touch has been initiated. A player is deemed out of bounds if he steps into that area before a raider initiates the touch.
The lobbies are meant to give the raiders extra space to maneuver after making a touch while escaping back to the mid-line. However, teams have started using loopholes in the rule to their advantage. In difficult situations when raiders find it hard to score points, they have often drifted into the lobby without a touch when they see defence moving for a tackle.
It’s impossible for defenders to abort their tackle in a split-second and end up following the raider into the lobby without a touch. So effectively, defenders that enter the lobby in an honest attempt to make a successful tackle are deemed out of bounds along with the raider.
Hence, the raider without any endeavour to force a touch on defenders, ends up getting the defenders out, even if it means sacrificing himself in the process.
In most occasions, more than one defender steps out into the lobby in an attempt to make a tackle, making it a profitable outcome for the raider without really trying to score points.
This season, teams have used this loophole on a regular basis and those moments have proved to be pivotal in the outcomes of a number of matches forcing the technical committee to have a re-think.
“We want to change it [lobby rule] and we are experimenting with the outcomes if we alter that rule,” Pro Kabaddi’s technical director E Prasad Rao told reporters in Ahmedabad.
“We are looking at football and basketball. When the ball goes out, the play is dead. Similarly, when the raider goes out, the play should be dead,” he added.
Rao, however, said that they would need to have a closer look at how the change could impact the game in different scenarios to make sure there is no room for any more loopholes before pressing ahead with the change next season onwards.
“We have a panel of senior coaches where we propose changes. They experiment it and give us the feedback. Like all rule changes we will follow this procedure for this change as well,” he confirmed.
More international tournaments
Currently, international matches in kabaddi are few and far between. India haven’t played since their semi-final defeat to Iran in the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta.
Similarly, other overseas countries like Kenya and Argentina that have shown the potential to do well in the sport get little exposure and are reduced to only a handful of matches they play in big tournaments like the World Cup. Plans are being made to change that.
“We had a recent meeting about the development of international kabaddi and plans for triangular, quadrangular series or Test matches are in the pipeline. It may not be possible for teams from Asia to travel to Europe, so we want to start tournaments between neighbouring countries,” said Rao, who is also the technical director of International Kabaddi Federation.
A junior World Cup will be held in Iran later this year with the senior World Cup slated to be held in 2020.
“We are finalising a slot for the World Cup that is set to be held next year. There were plans for it to happen in 2019 but they did not materialise. It’s still not decided yet but we want to have the World Cup in 2020,” Rao revealed.
The junior World Cup is being established with an aim to provide greater exposure to the young players of all nations before the progress to senior level and also allow Pro Kabaddi teams to scout overseas talent. There are also plans to include some of the better foreign youngsters in the league’s New Young Player program that has delivered some success in the last few seasons with players like Naveen Kumar, Nitesh Kumar and Vishal Bhardwaj emerging from it.