Chennai: Can one man who is not even in the playing seven make a difference in a team sport like kabaddi? Can one man offer a turnaround for Puneri Paltan, a team that failed to qualify for even the playoffs this season? If that one man is kabaddi legend Ashan Kumar Sangwan, then he definitely can.
History backs Ashan. It was he who captained India during its first Asian Games kabaddi gold in 1990. Ironically, it was also Ashan who coached a lesser-known South Korean team to beat the superstars of Indian kabaddi in the same tournament in 2018 to end India’s consecutive championship run since kabaddi’s induction into Asian Games.
In an exclusive interview to News Today, coach Ashan speaks about the growth of kabaddi and chalks out the road ahead for Puneri Paltan’s next season under his watch.
Here are the excerpts:
Q: How do you see kabaddi’s evolution over the years?
A: PKL has helped place kabaddi on the global sports map considering that nations like USA, Argentina, England and Poland are also taking up the sport seriously. Kabaddi has always been a sport which was popular in the hinterlands of India. The sport has now started appealing to the urban audience as well. The marketing and packaging of PKL have created an urban appeal for kabaddi which by nature is a rustic sport. Now, nationals and major international tournaments are also broadcast. All in all, the sport has grown massively. We have now got serious competitors at the international stage. The sport is being played more competitively at the local level, players are considering the option of taking up kabaddi seriously and consider PKL as a stepping stone to play for India in international tournaments.
Q: After India’s loss in the Asian Games final, will we see more countries challenging India’s dominance?
A: It’s all a part of the game. All teams in Asian Games put their best foot forward with the end goal being winning the gold. Other nations winning championships proves that kabaddi is now gaining international prominence which is good for the growth of the sport.
Q: Is this a sign of kabaddi taking the next step to becoming a global sport?
A: Absolutely! Kabaddi has grown immensely over the last couple of years and it is getting competitive day by day. In PKL, we can see so many international players from countries like Iran, Bangladesh, Korea, Thailand who have put up some great performances. This shows that kabaddi is becoming popular in the subcontinent and will, eventually, globally.
Q: If you were the coach of the Indian team, what would you work on to make them better?
A: The Indian national team players are the best of the lot. Our players are already well versed with the technique and skills required for the game. If I was the coach, I would have worked on players’ mental strength to keep them calm in crunch situations.
Q: Puneri Paltan’s performance was not up to the mark this season. What went wrong? What are your plans for the next season?
A: The team had a mixed season. Initially, we won matches, which helped us keep the momentum. But some matches we lost as the other team was better. We constantly work hard to improve ourselves by learning from our mistakes. My plan (next season) is to focus on the budding players and their fitness. I also intend to have varied support players for all positions who can complement the lead players.
Q: Among the Tamilnadu’s kabaddi players, who do you find the most impressive?
A: I think K Prapanjan and Chandran Ranjit are promising and dependable players from Tamilnadu.