While the Senior National Kabaddi Championship has always been the hunting ground for the nation’s elite kabaddi players, it also presents them with the opportunity of representing their state, which players take great pride in.
One such player is vivo Pro Kabaddi and Maharashtra superstar Rishank Devadiga who has represented his state in the Senior National Kabaddi Championship for several years.
Playing for Maharashtra in the nation’s premier inter-state competition had always been a priority for Devadiga.
“I started playing kabaddi when I was in school and back then I wasn’t aware about such a competition,” Rishank Devadiga told ProKabaddi.com. “When I turned professional in 2010-11, I learned about the Senior Nationals and decided right then that I want to represent Maharashtra and win the tournament.”
It’s an environment that gives the star raider an identity that he can embrace and call his own.
“I was born and brought up in Mumbai, so even though I'm a South Indian people know me more as a Maharashtrian,” he pointed out. “The people of Maharashtra have given me so much love and opportunity that I feel I'm one of their own… so I feel a great amount of pride in turning up to represent Maharashtra.”
However, success had been sporadic for Maharashtra at the Senior National Kabaddi Championship. The kabaddi powerhouse had last won the title in 2007 and despite producing players aplenty that went on to represent the nation at the Asian Games and even the Kabaddi World Cup, they fell short in their quest for a Senior National Kabaddi Championship.
But all that changed in 2018, when a young superstar by the name of Rishank Devadiga was named captain of the side that hoped to end Maharashtra’s long drought at the Senior Nationals.
At the competition, the skipper led his team by example. They breezed through the group stages and continued their good form in the knockouts, but a daunting test awaited them in the semi-final against Karnataka.
Dream come true
The clash of the two kabaddi titans lived up to its billing. Neither team could build a sizeable lead over the other and the contest remained at a stalemate till the dying moments. With the scores tied at 34-34, Maharashtra were faced with the nerve-wracking task of a Do-or-die buzzer raid but up stepped captain Rishank Devadiga to score the winning point and take his team to the final of the 65TH Senior National Kabaddi Championships.
In the final against defending champions Services, Rishank Devadiga yet again weaved his wand, picking up a Super Raid in his very first raid attempt, helping his side build a five-point lead at the half.
Services rallied back at the start of the half, but their defence had no answer when pitted against the Maharashtra skipper, as Rishank Devadiga continued his magical form. Despite briefly taking the lead in the second half, Services couldn’t hold on and the inspired Maharashtra team captured their state’s first Senior National Kabaddi Championship in 11 years.
Rishank Devadiga described that title victory as a moment that he’d cherish forever. “It has been my dream to bring glory to Maharashtra at the Senior Nationals and I feel really glad that I was able to do that,” reminisced the raider.
The love and adulation for his home state pushed Rishank Devadiga to deliver them a title and in his first attempt, the superstar raider lived up to his promise.