Rohit Kumar

New Delhi, July 10 (IANS) A mixture of family background and rural tradition prompted Rohit Kumar, one of the brightest stars in Indian kabaddi, to take to the traditional sport.

Rohit, who plays as a raider for Bengaluru Bulls, and his cousin Manjeet Chillar of Puneri Paltan both hail from Nizampur village on the outskirts of Delhi and have been among the stars of the Pro Kabaddi league (PKL) for the past few seasons.

A member of the Patna Pirates squad who won the third season of the PKL, Rohit is thankful the tournament’s broadcaster Star Sports and the Indian Kabaddi Federation for lifting the sport and the players out of anonymity.

“I used to lead an ordinary life before the PKL was launched. I used to dream of playing for top domestic teams like Services or Railways, but the PKL has changed everything. We are being paid well and people recognise us now,” Rohit told IANS.

“Life has become very busy now, but I am enjoying myself. the PKL has given a new lease of life to kabaddi. I am happy with whatever I have got from this league,” he added.

Rohit, who is employed by the Indian Navy, was part of the Indian team which won the gold medal at the South Asian Games earlier this year.

“My father was also a kabaddi player. He played at the national level and is employed with the Delhi Police,” Rohit said.

“Kabaddi is in my blood. It is to me a gift from the soil of my village,” he added.

But his initial entry into the PKL was not a walk in the park for Rohit. Bought by U Mumba for Rs.7,10,000 in the first PKL auction in 2014, Rohit was denied permission to participate in the first two seasons by Services.

“I started out by playing in my village. Over the years I represented my state at the School Nationals and the Senior Nationals. I joined the Indian Navy in 2009. I finally earned a call-up to the Indian squad in 2011 and took part in the national camp in Bengaluru that year,” Rohit recalled.

“I was finally allowed to play in the PKL from its third season and was picked by the Patna Pirates. I never looked back from there.”

Buoyed by the massive popularity generated by the PKL in its first few editions, the organisers have decided to conduct two seasons every year. Rohit welcomed the move and asserted that it will be beneficial for the sport.

“This is a good concept. It will help the players to keep themselves fit and will earn them lots of money as well,” the Delhi lad said.

“We are players and it is our job to play. This league has earned us lots of popularity. I am happy that people in Patna and Bengaluru have started to recognise me. I am very attached to Patna because I earned the title of the best player while playing for them last year,” he added.

“People in Patna love me and I enjoy playing there. PKL has changed my life”

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