Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Kabaddi memories

15 years ago there was a popular Asian sport on British television.

Slotted in next to Transworld Sport on Saturday morning's in the UK, Kabaddi took the nation by storm for a year or so before being unexplainably taken away.

There were teams such as the West Bengal Police Force playing a game similar to 'tag' and it featured a small playing area with teams of five in each half, with the aim that one player would attempt to touch as many opponents as possible, by venturing into their half and returning without being caught. The only catch was to hold your breath for as long as possible while saying 'Kabaddi'. A game of strength, speed, agility, lungpower and tactics - I loved it.

According to the Nagpur District website, Kabaddi and Akhada (Indian wrestling) play a traditional village life with many sport meetings held in the wrestling pits around the city 'sometimes ending in disturbance'.

I couldn't find any sign of these two sports during my stay, while journalists said Kabaddi was rarely played in schools these days and Akhada was now consigned to local gyms.

However, both sports still feature at the Asian games and at National level, so much so that wrestling hit front page news here last month when a woman junior gold medalist took on a 14-year-old wrestler with the frightening name of Babloo Yadav.

It was the main attraction at the All India Wrestling Championships while the organiser allayed any fears of shady activity by stating there would be "no fixing and the match will be played with true spirit".

Watched by thousands, the boy prevailed in a tough 25-minute encounter but the girl was hailed for her efforts; the locals here will be doing the same to Monty Panesar on Thursday whatever his figures.