Life goes on for Bengaluru Bulls’ chief coach Randhir Singh Sehrawat in Vivo Pro Kabaddi League, similar to his protégé, Pawan Sehrawat’s decision to seek a new challenge with a new franchise ahead of season nine. The latter joined Tamil Thalaivas after a successful bid worth Rs 2.26 crore for the raider at the PKL auction. The Bulls opted to let their star player leave, the coach prefers to look ahead and groom fresh talent.
Bulls stepped back from the pursuit of Pawan, ace in their pack during PKL season eight and went all for Vikash Khandola, formerly with Haryana Steelers and got their man. “Players become stars and go chasing their dreams. The focus at Bulls under my coaching is to mould a new player in his place. I am a maker (of players),” said Randhir Singh Sehrawat. “I will try to pass on the experience I have to Vikash like I did earlier with Pawan.”
The coach ran into his student (now with Thalaivas) at the PKL auction, and shed a tear when the realisation of parting sunk in. “We met after the auction, felt emotional but then each took his own decision. As the Bengaluru Bulls coach, my responsibility is to make sure our team does well and help Indian kabaddi by contributing new players who can excel for the nation. Pro Kabaddi offers us coaches a platform to mould players and we are thankful.”
Khandola cost the Bulls Rs 1.70 crore, as against Pawan whose price rose to an astronomical Rs 2.26 crore at the auction on day one (highest bid in PKL history). “Money is only part of the kabaddi story. We are putting food into the mouths of players by training them and nurturing them to do well for the side. Kabaddi players are not well-off, the money from PKL helps them sort out their lives.”
Randhir Singh pointed out that he spots players with promise at local tournaments, instead of doing talent-spotting at the National Championships. “The Nationals is for the federation officials to identify talent for India. I attend local kabaddi tournaments, identify talent and work on their game. Pawan came to our team, he worked hard and is now a big name.”
The Bulls coach, earlier in charge of Indian Railways squad, likes working with little-known faces, because of the hunger to improve. “Players with full stomachs are usually not inclined to work as hard after a certain stage in their career. Compared to the stars, those from tough backgrounds are hungry for knowledge and I am trying to put food into their mouths via training.” He named Bharat (raider), Vinod Naik (defender) in this context.
Pawan got the headlines as the highest-paid pro (Indian and foreign) to play PKL season nine. Vikash and Ghuman Singh (Thalivas paid Rs 1.21 cr) were others on the crorepati list among Indians. Iranian defender Fazel Atrachali tops in the foreigners’ category (Rs 1.38 crore by Puneri Paltans). UP Yoddhas matched the bid for Pardeep Narwal from Gujarat Giants (Rs 90 lakhs). These can be life-changing moments for the players.
Asked about the advice he would give to youngsters dreaming of playing Pro Kabaddi, influenced by news of pros like him earning in crores, PKL topper Pawan stressed on the fitness factor. “When young players approach me for guidance, I try to tell them about taking care of their bodies. As long as they are fit, change of team and working in a new setup is easier,” said the league’s Most Valuable Player last season.
Nicknamed ‘Hi Flier’, the 23-year-old from New Delhi had donned the colours of Gujarat Giants (2017), and Bengaluru Bulls (2014-2016, 2018-2021) before the move to Thalaivas. “I am looking ahead to being part of a title-winning side,” said the raider whose standout 2021 season for Bulls had 24 match appearances, 320 aggregate points earned, 64 percent raid strike rate, 46 percent tackle strike rate and will play under coach U Udayakumar.
Twelve teams will take part in PKL 2022 and squads are complete at the end of a two-day auction. Each team had a salary purse of Rs 4.4 crores and players to be auctioned were split into four categories (A, B, C, D) with varying base prices for each section. PKL Commissioner, Anupam Goswami said: “We are excited about the return of PKL after two years. It is home to top-quality kabaddi for fans here and abroad.”
“I think it’s important to create a sustainable system and there are several factors that will contribute to the league being able to go to its 10th year that we will go next year, but I think the important factor is how are you striking a right balance. The player purse of Pro Kabaddi has worked really well for all the stakeholders – team owners as well as players. For players, it’s evident that it has made aspirational careers,” added Goswami.