Opinion: Breaking tradition with kabaddi

Traditional sports are on the wane. How did Kabaddi beat the trend?

Mar 06, 2017 06:50:00 AM | Article | Prasad Sangameshwaran

A group of slum kids were playing outside their homes. It was a mention of a familiar term by one of tthe children that perked up the ears of those passing by. The slum kid had shouted "home run" to his friends. There was no sight of anything remotely connected with baseball. The children were using a stick as a bat and the ball was made of several pieces of cloth bound together. But the vocabulary being used was possibly picked from television.

In big cities like Mumbai, it's often believed that it's the slum chidlren who keep traditional games alive. But gilli-danda or even a game of marbles are endangered species. In this scenario how did Kabaddi manage to enter the spotlight through the Pro Kabaddi League.

This was one of the many questions that serial entrepreneur and media trailblazer, Ronnie Screwvala answered during his chat at the AAAI-Subhas Ghosal Memorial lecture held in Mumbai last Friday. 

According to Screwvala, Kabaddi was a sport that had found a few takers. But the task ahead of him and his team was to make the sport trendy. The first thing they did was to move the game that is usually played in a muddy field to a mat surface. That ensured that player jerseys were clean and shining throughout the match. That's a sponsor's delight.

The other attention was paid to the scoring system. When players were scoring in single digits in games like the Commonwealth, the format was tweaked to ensure that the game became high scoring. Soon 50 points in a game was par for the course. The high scoring games translated into higher TRPs.

The third was in ensuring that every player on the league went through a makeover and came on field looking his best. This ensured that 30 per cent of the viewers for the league are women. This is compared to just 10 per cent in the case of cricket (though the viewership base for cricket would be far bigger).

Can other traditional games be reinvented in a similar fashion? Gilli-danda, anyone?