After the huge success of Indian Premier League launched in 2008 and its rise through the early 2010s, brands started to realise the potential of marketing through sports in India. With a population of over 1.25 billion constituting a youth majority, India is among the fastest-growing economies. And global brands are always looking for opportunities to benefit in the growth of such economies.
In the early 2010s, Indian Sports Industry started booming with the launch of new independent leagues in the ecosystem, providing a band of opportunities for global brands to amplify their reach. Leagues like Hockey India League, Indian Super League and Premier Badminton League suddenly flooded the Indian Sports industry in 2013. Although they received a decent response, none of them could make it big.
The Pro Kabaddi League entered the Indian sports industry in 2014. Mashaal Sports acquired the rights to organise an indoor version of the Kabaddi from the International Kabaddi Federation (IKF) and founded the Pro Kabaddi League. Mashaal Sports is a company co-founded by Mr Anand Mahindra, Chairman and Mr Charu Sharma. This was a bold move considering the fact that many leagues failed to copy IPL’s success the very previous year. However, PKL was welcomed with great traction as Kabaddi turned out to be widely popular in the grassroots community settings in both urban and rural India.
PKL made a dream start by gaining a viewership of 435 million in a 37-day event. This was a huge figure in 2014. For comparison, IPL 2014 attracted 552 million viewers in the 46 days tournament. After this blockbuster entry, Star Sports acquired 74% stakes of Mashal Sports, thus owning the PKL from then on. After the official announcement, Star India Chief Executive Uday Shankar said, “At STAR India, we believe in putting our energy and resources behind properties that tick four boxes: ambition, honour, bring value to society and have some commercial value.”
Pro Kabaddi Rules
Kabaddi is a fast-flowing, physical indoor sport, played between 2 teams constituting 7 members each. The main objective is to win the game by scoring more points through the course of the game. A kabaddi game runs for 40 minutes with the duration divided into two equal halves of 20 minutes each.
How to score points
Points are awarded while attacking as well as defending. In attacking, the ‘raider’ enters the opposite side to tag players in the opponent team and return back safely without getting pinned to the ground. A point is gained for every tagged defender and the tagged player is temporarily ruled out of play.
In defence, successful tackle of the raider by the team earns a point and the privilege of bringing back one tagged defender.
For a valid raid, the raider should cross the baulk line with at least one foot. Also, the raider must keep uttering “kabaddi” before entering the opposing court. He cannot stop before returns back to his court. A pause in the same shall lead to his return without any point.
The defenders cannot grab anything other than raider’s limbs and torso which is inspected by the officials. Also, the raider has to do it all while remaining within the boundaries of the court, else might lose a point for the same. A specific zone called the ‘lobby’ is active only when the raider has made contact with a defender.
In PKL, a do or die raid is applicable after every 2 empty raids i.e no point raids. In this, the raider has to secure at least one point to avoid his elimination.
One unsuccessful referral is awarded to each team in order to challenge tags/touches. This is applicable only during the knockout matches. Referees change or retain the decisions based on televised replays.
Also teams can have one In-Play coach consultation of 20 seconds in each half.
Saffron Sleeve: Current top defender (points earned per match basis)
Green Sleeve: Current top raider of the league (points earned per match basis)
Bonus Line: Active only when the defending team has at least 6-7 players, extra-point to the raider for crossing the same during a raid.
All Out: 2 extra points is awarded to the team who manages to tag all the opposite players out.
Super Tackle: The defending team is awarded with one extra point for a tackle with less than 4 players, called a ‘super tackle’.
Pro Kabaddi Format
The league follows normal indoor kabaddi rules with some improvisation to encourage high scoring games. A ‘do or die raid’ is triggered after 2 empty raids. In this, the player must score a point or else shall be declared out automatically. Tackles with 3 or less players left on court counts for double the points (2 instead of 1), called a Super Tackle.
The first season followed the double round robin format with each team playing every other 7 twice during the season. This followed 2 semi-finals, a third place game and the Finals.
This format continued till Season 4 but after the addition of 4 new teams in the next season, organisers tried to make the bigger season as indulging and challenging as possible. Since season 5, the 12 teams are divided into 2 divisions, Zone A and B with 6 teams in each according to the region. Each team now plays 15 intra-zone games, thrice with rest 5 teams of their zone and 6 inter-zone games, once with every team in the opposite zone. The league does not end here as there is one wild-card inter-zone game left which is drawn randomly for each team.
Thus every team now plays 22 games in the regular season. This is followed by playoff games between the top 3 teams of both zones. Now, playoffs are structured such that the top team of both zones plays qualifier 1 one for the PKL Finals. The winner gets first place in the Finals and the losers gets another chance in qualifier 2. The rest 4 teams plays 2 eliminators in the format given below, followed by another eliminator between the winners of the prior. The winner of the Eliminator 3 now plays in Qualifier 2 with the loser of Qualifier 1 for the 2nd spot in PKL Finals. Apa
Also, all the teams will be playing 11 matches at each venue in different legs of the season. This way, every team will be hosting all the other teams for one week. This continues for 12 weeks till the end of the season.
Pro Kabaddi First Season
On 20 May 2014, the inaugural auction of players for the 8 participating teams in Pro Kabaddi League was held in Mumbai. These 8 teams were owned by some familiar Indian personalities including actor, producer, Abhishek Bachchan. The auction saw Rakesh Kumar, India's then National captain as the most expensive player, bought by Patna Pirates for ₹12.80 lakhs. He was followed by Deepak Nivas bought by Telugu Titans for ₹12.60 lakh. The highest paid foreign player was Tae DeokEom bought by Pirates for ₹7 lakhs.
The first season lasted 37 days from 26 July 2014 to 31 August 2014.
The opening game between U Mumbai and Jaipur Pink Panthers saw a rematch in the finals on August 31 at Mumbai. The Pink Panthers defeated U Mumba in the finals by 11 points to bag the first title of PKL. Through the season, Pink Panthers won 10 matches out of 14. Maninder Singh and Jasvir Singh led the team attack combining for 236 raid points for the side. Arjun Awardee Navneet Gautam and Ran Singh had commendable contribution in the defence throughout the season.
The championship game was viewed by 86.4 million, adding it to 435 million viewers for the inaugural season. This massive insurgence saw major growth in the brand value of the league. In fact, Star Sports acquired 74% stakes in PKL’s parent company, Mashaal Sports after this tremendous season
Pro Kabaddi Winners
Season 1: Jaipur Pink Panthers
In the Semi Finals of PKL 2014, U Mumba defeated the Bulls 27-23 while Jaipur crushed Patna Pirates 38-18 to set up the first ever Pro Kabaddi League final. In the final, played in Mumbai, the Panthers defeated Mumbai 35-24 to win the first ever PKL Championship. U Mumba’s captain Anup Kumar was named the Player of the Season. He was the best raider of the tournament, winning 155 points for his team.
Season 2: U Mumba
Led by one of India’s top raiders Anup Kumar, U Mumba won the title in the second season, defeating Bengaluru Bulls 36-30 in the final. Manjeet Chhillar of the Bulls was named the Player of the Season for his all-round performance throughout the tournament.
Season 3: Patna Pirates
U Mumba and Patna Pirates qualified for the semi-finals for the third consecutive time while it was first time for Puneri Paltan and Bengal Warriors in top four. The Pirates defeated Pune 40-21 in the semi-final to enter the final of the tournament for the first time in three attempts. On the other hand, U Mumba defeated Bengal 41-29 to complete the hat-trick of finals.
But the Mumbai based team could not defend the title as Patna Pirates won the final 31-28, bagging a trophy and ₹1 crore in the process. Rohit Kumar of the Pirates was awarded Man of the Series for winning 102 raid points throughout the tournament.
Season 4: Patna Pirates
The Pirates defeated Puneri Paltan in the rematch of precious season’s semi-final while the Panthers won 34-24 against Telugu Titans to return to the final after two years. Patna became the first team to successfully defend the title after beating Jaipur 37-29 in the final.
Season 5: Patna Pirates
The new entrant Gujarat made it to the final in their first-ever season where they faced two times champions Patna Pirates. The title holders won the finals 55-38 to complete the hat-trick of championships.
Season 6: Bengaluru Bulls
The Bulls defeated Gujarat in the first qualifier to enter the final for the second time after 2015. But Gujarat also qualified for the second consecutive final, defeating UP Yoddha 38-31 in the qualifier 2. Bengaluru Bulls, the 2014 semi-finalists and 2015 finalists, finally got their hands on the trophy, after winning the final 38-33. Gujrat, on the other hand, Gujarat suffered second consecutive defeat in the final.