Kabaddi World Cup 2016 showed how the pow-wow sport can also have moments of grace
Far from PKL’s thigh-fives and ‘macho’ gestures, the smaller teams of the Kabaddi World Cup 2016 showed much grace while winning and losing.
Cricket has its bat raises after centuries, football has the ‘jersey biting’after goals. Kabaddi, while arriving with all its shoves, thuds and assorted impolite moves in 2014’s Pro Kabaddi League, introduced to us the ‘thigh-five’. The slapping of one’s thigh before raising the hand that raiders did after a successful raid – they’d been doing it before PKL too – caught many by fancy and the move has caught up, powered by smart packaging. In season two of the PKL, Twitter even introduced an emoji for the gesture.
Thigh-fives apart, the physicality of kabaddi makes for some very 'macho' gestures. As it takes quite some muscle and core strength to throw an 85-kilo man off the turf, there is intense energy in the middle. But like in all sports, the little gestures that men make in-between heated moments say much about who they are. This World Cup, a first experience in kabaddi itself for many teams, has said much.
The Asian namastes
Masayuki Shimokawa, the Japan captain who happens to be a buddy of Haryanvis Mohit Chhillar and Surender Nada, greeted the press with a 'Ram Ram!' before the World Cup and led to laughter. The small-framed raider has since giving ample namastes to all, complete with his traditional bow. Most in the Japanese team, which includes a priest by the way, have bowed to the audience after every game at The Arena in Ahmedabad, even amidst teary eyes after their heart-breaking quarter-final loss.
The Thai boys, all of them high school and university students, too have been generous with their namastes and were particularly courteous despite their shyness through their campaign, which ended with a crushing loss to India.
Blame it on the novelty of the game and ignorance of the rules, but players from many foreign teams have gladly apologised to referees after errors. The apologies that come to opponent teams in the middle of a violent battle, however, are the more endearing ones. Even here, the Asians led the cause. Japanese all-rounder Terakazu Nitta, in that last high-octane game, was suspended for having held on to a raider for too long after tackling him. On returning after stipulated time, he immediately went to the middle of the court and bowed with folded hands to the Thai raider.
The Thais, Poles and Australians too, have scored high in this ‘gentleman’s apology’ meter, often cutting a sorry figure for tackling someone too aggressively. Most of them also offer the fallen raider a hand to get back up and a quick pat to get going.
The self-outs and celebrations
Kabaddi’s equivalent of cricket’s ‘walk after dismissal’ assumes more importance as it can happen twice a minute and majorly sway the result of a game. The biggest exponent of this practice is kabaddi’s biggest star, Anup Kumar, who in this tournament itself, twice declared himself out before the referee could raise his hand. "It’s how I’ve played the game, there’s no point in winning after deceiving someone or cheating," he told the reporters later. Kumar has perhaps led the trail of many players raising their hand (not many in his own camp do it as a habit) even at the slightest of touches. Again, the Thais and Japanese were more regular than others, and the Australians too followed the principles of grace in their five games. (Maybe Adam Gilchrist gave them a pep talk after Shane Warne did).
It is the celebrations, however, where the colours of kabaddi flourished this World Cup. The Iranians kissed the green bands they’ve been wearing after major raids and wins, some Bangladeshis (defender Tuhin Tarafder leading the way) did incredible back-flips while the Kenyans could not stop dancing after each of their three wins or even in the stands while watching others.
The most heartening ‘little moment’ this World Cup, of course, would be the Argentinians huddling and throwing their coach in the air after their five-game campaign ended with five losses.
More competition = less grace?
One might argue that with more experience and tougher competition in kabaddi, the players harden up and do less of the above – the Pro Kabaddi League doesn’t see as many gentlemanly gestures after all – but we do hope that doesn’t prove to be true as the sport grows overseas. We haven’t seen many of Anup’s boys lend a hand to a captured raider or gesture a sorry after a violent move, but that may be because they are a bunch of boys raised in environments where sport has meant employment or lifestyle, not spirit or grace.
But after two weeks of witnessing endearing gestures from lesser teams, most of whom tasted merciless defeats, maybe it’s time for our boys to make some room for nicer moves along with fist pumps and thigh fives.
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