Kabaddi’s standing as a traditional game in India brings with it some peculiarities. This may be something that those working at the team hotels may have come to know on the very first day. For example, a curious glance into the plates of the players gave you glimpses of eight or ten rasgullas, quite a few rotis with a questionable sheen to them and other names from a menu that may be strict no-no’s for players involved in other sports.
“Since Kabaddi is a very traditional sport, the diet of the players is reflective of the same – food from their culture from the places they come from,” Haryana Steelers team physio Hayd’n Cody Hill said in an interaction with IndianExpress.com, “While it is good to count the calorie intake, these guys believe that they train hard enough to burn what they have eaten.”
This was echoed by U Mumba captain Anup Kumar, “Yes it is true that we can’t each too much oily stuff as it can create problems for us later,” he said, “But we also train that way.” Kumar said that the players don’t eat without a care in the world on a daily basis. “It’s not that we need to eat a lot of oily food or sweets on a daily basis. Sometimes we do eat that way and eat well too. But we are confident that such indulgences won’t affect us as we train just as hard later.”
If we observe a team going through their training sessions, we get to see exactly what Kumar talks about. For example, in Hyderabad, the Telugu Titans would place a few buckets beside the area where they kept their kit while practicing. Every once in a while, a player would come there, remove his shirt and ring the sweat out into the bucket. They would be full towards the end of the session. “This is the way it is every day,” said a member of the team staff when asked about it.
The support staff of teams in Pro Kabaddi tend to be flexible in the way they set up diet regimes and training schedules. “The whole idea is to get them to eat healthy and then work hard to extract the best out of them,” says Hill, “While the foreign players eat various types of food in limited quantities, the Indian players like to stick to their staple diet – a set menu per say, which is extremely traditional.” This applies to training methods too and, according to Hill, it is important to ensure that players are comfortable with the routines so as to prevent them from becoming hindrances on match days. “We encourage (the Indian players) to work within their ingrained training methods,” he said, ”
At the same time, there are fitness benchmarks that a player has to fulfill so as to make it to the squad. A prime example of that is Sonu Narwal, who was excluded from the Haryana Steelers squad this season.
“We have set parameters for fitness that is representative of any professional team we run and he unfortunately did not meet our standards,” said Hill.
Kabaddi is a game that demands physical strength, speed and skill in ways that is unique to the sport. Similarly, a Kabaddi players’ preparations and conditioning also have their own unique traits. A look at the stats thus far this season would tell us that, no matter what they eat and how they train, Indian players remain a class above their foreign counterparts.