At Rs 12.80 lakh Rakesh Kumar was the most expensive player to be bought in the auctions for the first Pro Kabaddi League in 2014. Three years later, that mantle has now been taken by Nitin Tomar, for whom the newly formed Uttar Pradesh team spent Rs 93 lakh. But team UP could acquire the services of the raider only after winning a bidding battle with Telugu Titans.
When asked about the effect Titans had on the final price of Tomar, team UP owner Hemant Dua said, “He (Titans’ owner Srinivas Sreeramaneni) is obviously smarter than me. But, I think we have done more auctions than him. I know who is pushing us and who is not. Nitin Tomar was one such player we definitely wanted. We are an UP franchise and he comes from UP. So when you get into a state as big as this you need someone who is a local hero.”
For Nitin, who hails from Malakpur village in Bagpat of Uttar Pradesh, last 12 months have been more than just a dream come true. The 35-year old has been in a fine run right after breaking it into the PKL’s third season. His performance in the league earned him a place in the national team for the World Cup last October.
“Hadn’t he (Nitin) been a Forces’ player, we would have possibly drafted him. And he was someone who we really wanted to go for, which eventually created an imbalance for our purse. In our closed doors we knew what we were doing,” Hemant said.
When asked about the reason for stepping into Kabaddi after IPL and ISL Hemant said, “We wanted to get into, it’s a national extension to expand the sports business. And we wanted to buy a team kabaddi along back when it was instituted long back due to various other reasons. So I felt this an opportune time. Also, kabaddi is an indigenous sport and I have a lot of love for the sport. Thus it’s a tribute to the sport.”
Hemant believes attack is a predominant element of Kabaddi and his side will play an attacking and accelerating game throughout the league.
“We (GMR group) have always believed in ‘khelo front foot pe’ and we will follow the same strategy. We have wonderful all-rounders in Nitin Tomar and Rajesh Narwal. With Rishank Devadiga, Jeeve Kumar, Nitesh Kumar, Surinder Singh, our side is a pretty balanced team and I’m sure that we will be the surprise element of the season.”
With four new teams drafted, the tournament is expected to run for over two months. Keeping a longer season in mind, the franchise owner perceives it will be critical that how the teams will manage their players.
“It will be a challenging season for every team as it will be the longest season that any of the Indian sports league will see. There will be a hectic schedule and it will be critical that how the teams manage their players. This is the reason why we bought so many raiders cause it will give us more options to rotate our raiders and keep them from injuries. This is something which we lacked this season for Delhi. We lost Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy,” he concluded.