In kabaddi, defending is an art. Like a sculptor shaping their masterpiece, defenders in kabaddi require great patience, impeccable precision, unparalleled anticipation and great mastery over a defensive manoeuvre to pull off a successful tackle. Anything less, and it reduces the chances of success exponentially. The one defensive move which, perhaps, requires the most delicate balance of all the traits, and more, is the Ankle Hold.
An Ankle Hold involves a defender using all his strength to get a grip on a raider’s ankle and then use his upper-body strength to pull him back in order to halt his momentum so that a tackle can be completed. It is a move which, as simple as it may look, requires immense patience, strength and technique. Mastered properly, the Ankle Hold can easily become the most lethal move in a defender’s arsenal and a raider’s worst nightmare. So, what does it take to properly master the move?
A defender’s perspective
Nitesh Kumar, the first defender to score a 100 Tackle Points in a single VIVO Pro Kabaddi season and a brilliant executor of the Ankle Hold, in an interview with prokabaddi.com, explained the nitty-gritties of the move and the considerations a defender has to make before opting for the Ankle Hold.
“You have to read the raider really well,” said Nitesh, who scored 49 of his 100 tackle points in Season 6 via Ankle Holds, “You have to be wary that he can use the Kick or Toe touch or even try for a Bonus. You have to consider all these possibilities before going for an Ankle Hold. We observe each raider during the match to see where he is making a mistake and what his natural movement is like. Then we ascertain which moment he will try and come deeper into the half in so that we can execute an Ankle Hold.”
Needless to say, apart from the tireless work put into strengthening their forearms, back and shoulder muscles at the gym, executing the perfect Ankle Hold also demands a lot of mental calculation, patience and anticipation on a defender’s part.
Avoiding the dreaded Ankle Hold, more often than not, becomes a raider’s top priority during raids. As ace raider Rishank Devadiga explains, “You always need to keep a sharp eye on the Corner, how he moves. A raider is generally most vulnerable to Ankle Holds while going for a Bonus. We work on distracting the Corner defender first before attempting a bonus point. This puts him off his timing while attempting the Ankle Hold.”
So, a large part of timing the tackle right involves knowing when the raider is actually going to go in deep and try to attempt a Toe Touch or a Bonus point. But doing this in a matter of seconds when the raiders feet are moving about quickly is a formidable challenge to say the least – one which takes years of practice and experience to perfect.