Rib-crunching tackles, blink-and-you-miss-it raids and rubber-band like flexibility — these are just some of the skills needed to be a top kabaddi player. And with the advent of the Pro Kabaddi League, the sport has become even more demanding.

Since the introduction of the mat and shoes in 2007, the sport has taken a new turn. Like E. P. Rao, widely known as the father of Indian kabaddi, says, “The scoreline back in the day used to be 1-0 or 2-0 and people used to think, ‘Wow, what a tough game it was!’ But in reality, it was because neither team attempted to score a point. The game was won off one raid or two.”

The game has become quicker, tougher and more physically challenging. Mere technical expertise doesn’t cut it, the players are under constant pressure to adapt and re-brand their game. And season seven of the PKL saw just that. While veterans such as Ajay Thakur,…

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