The sport has grown in leaps and bounds in the last few years.

Indian sports witnessed a new phenomenon in 2008. The year saw the start of the Indian Premier League (IPL), one of the biggest spectacles in world cricket. 14 seasons later, the league is still going strong, etching its name amongst the elite sporting leagues of the world. Strong fanbases, expert coverage and unfiltered entertainment have made the league well-known around the globe. It has also contributed heavily to the cricket culture in India. Several stars have been unearthed, with many featuring for the Men in Blue on the international stage.

IPL also set the stage for several other sporting leagues to crop up in India. While many stuttered and fell, a few stood the test of time to enhance the sporting culture in India. The Indian Super League has done wonders for Indian football. Many talented players have come up the ranks.

Similarly, the Pro Kabaddi League proved to be another big step in the Indian sporting ecosystem as it brought Kabaddi to the forefront of Indian sports. The league’s viewership has been extraordinary. It proving to be second only to the IPL during the season. Kabaddi players have become household names, however, women kabaddi players are still struggling to get recognition in India.

The growth of the Pro Kabbadi League

Pro Kabaddi League has helped in creating a brilliant scouting platform for the nation’s next young stars. Brilliant performers such as Pardeeep Narwal, Pawan Sehrawat, Naveen Kumar and Siddarth Desai have come through the ranks to establish themselves in the national team. The sport has seen remarkable growth throughout the country since the inception of the league, reaching the majority of the households and localities in India.

The continuing success of the league leads to further questions — what is next for the sport. The answer is simple yet complex. A women’s version seems to tick all the necessary boxes for the expansion of the sport from the country and the continent to the entirety of the globe. However, it is not like it was not tried before. The Women’s Kabaddi Challenge was a short-lived endeavour in 2016. The challenge did not return the next year or the years after due to multiple reasons.

Women’s version of the Pro Kabaddi League could be a gamechanger on multiple fronts. Rather than three teams that played each other in a round-robin format, the new league should look to include more teams so as to increase participation not only from India but also from other countries.

Global reach 

A steady league for women could be the first step in enhancing the global appeal of the exponentially growing sport. In an age of women empowerment and inclusivity, this could be the vital change that could push Kabaddi from the borders to the mainstream. A well-organised women’s league could attract proponents of the sport from various countries across the globe as participants. The success of the Pro Kabaddi League has seen remarkable growth not just in India, but in other countries like Iran (winners of the 2018 Asian Games Gold in both categories), Thailand and South Korea.

Internal improvement

A women’s league could also bolster the sport in India to the next level. With more women involved within the kabaddi ecosystem, the sport could find itself in nearly every nook and cranny of the country. More talents develop when the opportunities get more inclusive. More women getting involved means more people getting involved and this could lead to a nationwide surge in interest in India’s own game. This could be vital if India aims to reclaim the Asian Games crown from the tough Iranians in both categories.

Changes from Women’s Kabaddi Challenge

The failure or rather lack of progression from the Women’s Kabaddi Challenge stemmed from the fact that it was far from the finished product. The teams and the matches looked more in line with an exhibition tone rather than having the fierceness and thrill of competition. It should also be noted that the games were played in a regulation court designed for men. Women’s regulation courts are smaller in width and length. This also led to a drop in intensity thereby pushing away viewers to an extent.

It is important the new league learn from the previous mistakes and function as a separate entity from the league while maintaining connections. This independence could make it even more attractive for the viewers and therefore lend a novelty to people who enjoy the sport.

The success of the men’s Pro Kabaddi League could serve as a healthy reminder to the Kabaddi stakeholders that if organised well, the women’s Pro Kabaddi League could prove to be a spectacle worth investing in. It could also serve as a precursor to several other sports to follow suit. It could be a gamechanger not just for Kabaddi but for all the sports in India.

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