The sports revolution

Abhishek Bachchan is the owner of the Jaipur team for the Pro Kabaddi league which will air on Star Sports

Written by Ankita R Kanabar | Mumbai | Updated: April 16, 2014 1:57 pm
Abhishek Bachchan Abhishek Bachchan

A self-confessed football fanatic, and an ardent cricket lover, Abhishek Bachchan has now taken a shine to the Indian-originated sport Kabaddi. The actor now owns the Jaipur team for the Pro Kabaddi League. He is yet to finalise a name for it though. The league, which Bachchan describes as ‘The Kabaddi Revolution’ in India, is an initiative of Mashal Sports, driven by Anand Mahindra, Piyush Pandey, Rajiv Luthra and Charu Sharma. Commentator and MD of Mashal Sports, Charu Sharma is also the brain behind conceptualising and organising the league. But, ask Bachchan about his thought-process to come on board, and he says, “It was about a year ago that Charu pitched the idea of Pro Kabaddi to me, and I was taken aback as to how we take the game for granted. It’s such a cheap sport. In cricket, you need a lot of equipment, even for football which is still cheap, you need a ball, but every parent can teach Kabaddi to their child as all you need is a ground to play. We’re a cricket loving nation, including me, but that’s a British sport. Hockey too is a British sport. As far as I know, Kabaddi is the only Indian sport still played. So, when Charu spoke to me, he appealed first to the patriot in me, because I’m a bit of a sentimentalist and this is ‘our’ sport.”
The actor also added that the sportsmen who play Kabaddi don’t get the kind of facilities that the more accomplished sportsmen in the country get. The idea is to also give these sportsmen the kind of infrastructure and recognition they deserve. The Pro Kabaddi League will kick-start on July 26, and go on till the end of August. There will be eight teams, who will play seven matches in their home-ground and seven matches outside.
When asked if adding a celebrity’s name helps to turn things around, the actor says, “I agree that when you add a celebrity to something, you attract eyeballs but we’re not here for that. I’m not an actor here, I’m a sports enthusiast. I’ve told Charu earlier as well, that if you think that I’m a film actor and I’m just going to go to Jaipur to wave my hand, then no, that’s not going to happen. I’m the owner of the team, and will be actively involved. And, if I can use the little star status that I have to help the sport, I’ll be stupid not to do it.”
Interestingly, every team will have three foreign players from various countries, and the auction will happen soon. “People interpret the term auction in a negative way, but the idea of an auction is just that every team gets a good mix of players, and there’s healthy competition,” says Charu Sharma.
One of the goals of this initiative is to also make the sport popular among the television audience, since it’s already popular among the rural crowds. Junior B explains, “Television is a huge audience base. I’m fairly confident that the stadiums will be packed, because it is a popular sport among the masses. The endeavour and the challenge is to make it popular on television as well.”
Star Sports is the exclusive partner of the Pro Kabaddi league, and Bachchan believes, that this move will add more to the game’s popularity. “Star is only going to lend more to what we have especially because they’ve decided to air it on prime time. I do feel that Star will give it a very strong packaging, considering the kind of plan they have. The production values will increase, but this is just the first step,” says the actor.
Interestingly, there’s also women’s Kabaddi league that’s being planned. Sharma confirms, “We have every intention to have a women’s Kabaddi league, it’s just a matter of time before we announce it.”
Junior Bachchan is also very excited with this idea as he says, “I would love to promote the women’s league more actively, than the men’s league, because I firmly believe that in India, women in sports are not given their due credit and opportunity.”

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