From the second season of the Pro Kabaddi League, organisers had started taking steps to making the event more inclusive for women. Then, 2010 and 2014 Asian Games gold medallist Mamtha Poojary was introduced to the commentary team. Yet now as the fourth season has begun, Poojary will skipper one of the teams in a mini-league set in place for women’s kabaddi.
In the four days that the PKL caravan stays within a city, three days accommodate two men’s matches. As for the remaining day, a women’s game will be held. “We had promised them from the first season that there will be a league for them soon. There was always a plan to have a women’s match, but we wanted to get the men’s league secure first,” explains Charu Sharma, managing director of the tournament’s organising group.
The Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (AKFI) held a selection camp in Mumbai in April for 60 women players from all states. The trial process conducted steadily filtered down the numbers to form three teams – Firebirds, Ice Divas and Storm Queens – of 12 players each. Each team will play the other twice in a round robin format. By the end of the six matches, the second and third placed team will compete in a qualifier to figure who will play in the final against the round robin winners. The final will be played in Hyderabad just a little before the men’s final.
As of now, there is a plan of starting up a full-scale women’s league that will mirror the men’s edition. “That plan is a bit in the pipeline as of now, and we haven’t given it a deadline as such. What we’re doing at the moment is a sort of season teaser for the women’s league. It’s more in a preliminary nature,” mentions Sharma. During the selection camp, the prospective players were also prepared for carrying themselves in front of the camera. “It’ll be a new experience for them. So we wanted to prepare them for that too,” Sharma adds.
All three teams are in-house squads and haven’t been purchased by an owner, like in the men’s edition. “We wanted to showcase women’s kabaddi, and we saw the one-game-day window as an opportunity. The three teams are made up of the crème of the country, so there will be some good competition,” asserts Deoraj Chaturvedi, operations consultant for the PKL and CEO of the IKF.