Kabaddi is an ancient game and deemed as one of the National games of India. Originally played by the rural people of Maharastra and Tamil Nadu but became a very popular domestic game soon. However, due to lack of viewership it remained a low key rural game. It also entered for the first time Asian games in 1982. Thanks to Mahasal sports who are responsible for the invention of Pro Kabaddi tournament since 2014 the game is slowly gaining its popularity both in rural and urban areas. As a professional sporting league started in 2014 in India. It is formulated as an eight teams playing in a caravan format traveling together to all 8 venues, and playing tow opponents in each venue totaling to 60 matches. Mahasal sports are a company founded by Mr. Anand Malhorta, the Chairman, Mahindra Group, and Mr. Charu Sharma who is also a director of Mahsal Sports.
There are eight 8 teams participating in the league named after different cities of the country. The names of these teams are Bengal Warriors, Bengalru Bulls, Dabang Delhi, Jaipur Pink Panthers, Patna Pirates, Puneri Paltans, Telegu Titans and U Mumba. The players playing in the tournament come from smaller towns and cities and the games are made so interesting that have attracted the crowd in a big way. In the last 2 years people of all ages come to stadium and watch the matches, support their favorite teams and also their favorite players. These players have represented India in the Asian and won gold medals but they did not get such a big platform to perform well in front of big crowds.
The popularity of the game and its crowds pulling can be attributed to 1) Short time, result oriented matches played during late evening so that even office going people can watch either in stadium, Net or on Television .2) Involvement of Celebrities as owners and crowd pullers 3) Live telecasting on TV and Internet of the matches. 4) Affordable entry charges.
Starting from Pro Kabaddi League season 1 Celebrities like Amitabh Bachhan , Abishek Bachan , Aamir Khan, Sachin Tendulakar gave the requisite boost to draw the crowd. Some of the big wigs bought team for example the Pink Panthers team by Abhishek Bachhan, Rony Screwalla U Mumba etc. Season 2 attracted some more celebrities like Katrina Kaif, Saif Ali Khan, Alia Bhatt, Regional film stars like Chiranjeevi, came to watch the matches. MS Dhoni Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly watched the matches with great interest that also enthused the people to extra mile to see the games. Politicians were no exception as we saw Mamata Bnaerjee in Kolkata, Arun Jitley in Delhi, Venkayya Naydu in Hyderabad.
For 2014 Pro Kabaddi League, Star Sports was named the official broadcasters with the online rights going to Starsports.com. In 2015, Star Sports 3 and Star Sports 1 were showing the live telecast in Hindi and English while it was telecasted in 5 other different regional languages. Hotstar.com and Starsports.com was the online broadcaster partner of Pro Kabaddi League Season 2.
In the first season of Pro Kabaddi League there were 435 million viewers out of which 22% were women. In the second season of Pro Kabaddi League there has been an increase of 45 per cent in TV viewership as compared to last year. The unprecedented growth makes Star Sports Pro Kabaddi the only domestic Indian sports league to witness a strong rise in viewership as compared to last season. The appeal of the league has cut across demographics with the core, urban youth audiences following the matches’ game while women and children contribute 50 per cent of viewerships.
There is good money flow in these games encouraging more and more youngsters turning professionals and making money for good life. Top players like Anup Kumar, Manjeet Chiller, Mohit, Chiller, Kashiling Adke, Ravinder Pahal Sandeep Narwal , Deepak Narwal and Shabeer Bapu young players like Sandeep Kandola , Vishal Mane are becoming the household names in the country. The winning team of Pro Kabaddi League got 1 Crore. At the end of each match there were prizes for best raider, best defender etc. which is encouraging youngsters to take to the game.
One hopes that in the years to come Pro-Kabaddi will catch up with Cricketing tournaments in terms of popularity and crowd pulling phenomenon.