Skill, analytics, and mind games – The three key contributing factors for the change in course of Super Tackle situations.
Through seven seasons of vivo Pro Kabaddi, the increased usage of analytics and video breakdowns have helped evolve a number of aspects of the sport, but possibly none more so than the Super Tackle situation.
Earlier perceived to put teams on the back foot, the numbers suggest that defences have cracked the code to dominate Super Tackle situations (team down to three or fewer players on the mat) and turn the game on its head.
“In the initial seasons of vivo Pro Kabaddi, teams relied heavily on their raiders to win them games, however, over the past two or three seasons, coaches, including myself, have realised that a good defence can also turn the game on its head,” said Bengaluru Bulls coach Randhir Singh Sehrawat in an exclusive interview with Prokabaddi.com. His team managed the second-most number of Super Tackles in Season 7 with 30, which included a 5 Super Tackle effort in their Season 7 opener against Patna Pirates.
Coach Sehrawat believes that teams have now realised that the onus is on the raider to score a point and not commit a mistake against a defence of three or fewer players.
With the help of Randhir Singh, Gujarat Fortunegiants coach Manpreet Singh and Telugu Titans’ standout Left Corner Vishal Bhardwaj, we get an insight into what has changed tactically when it comes to Super Tackle situations.
Dare to Do-or-Die
The Do-or-Die situation, where a raider has to pick up at least a point during their raid, has played a huge role in the spike in the number of Super Tackles in vivo Pro Kabaddi.
As Gujarat Fortunegiants coach Manpreet Singh explained, “Once a defence is down to three or two, and they know that the opposition will have a Do-or-Die raid in sequence first, they will gladly put in two empty raids and play extremely cautiously during the opposition’s raids, to make sure that they are forced into a Do-or-Die raid in a Super Tackle situation. That is the ultimate litmus test of a raider where they are under immense pressure to not surrender two tackle points. In that situation, the defence already has the psychological edge.”
Of the 244 Super Tackles scored directly by defenders in the previous season, 76 (31.15%) came in Do-or-Die situations. It was 9% in Season 1 and has been steadily rising since.
Finding the right match-ups
The heavy emphasis on data analytics has changed the way teams in vivo Pro Kabaddi set up their defence. As both, coach Randhir Singh Sehrawat and Manpreet Singh testified, each team reviews hours of footage to find the appropriate match-ups against certain raiders.
“Some raiders are susceptible against the Ankle Hold while a few nimble ones are easy to Block and Dash out of bounds,” said coach Sehrawat. “So, it’s pre-planned that when a certain raider comes in to raider, the defender that is best adept to execute the move that the raider has previously struggled against will initiate the tackles.”
Telugu Titans’ Vishal Bhardwaj, who has led the league in Super Tackles in each of the last two seasons, also confirmed coach Sehrawat’s hypothesis.
“Since I am quick and really good at the Block and Dash, it is my responsibility to attack a right raider (raiders that favour their right hand) when he sprints across the mat to attempt a Running Hand Touch,” said the Left Corner. “In other situations, it is someone else’s responsibility to initiate the tackle and my job to join in as soon my teammate does.”
Some teams even use players who operate as Super Tackle specialists for their side. Case in point, Patna Pirates’ Monu, who is a raider by trade but was used heavily in Super Tackle situations as a substitute and managed seven in Season 7.
Coach Manpreet explained that Monu’s shorter stature coupled with his ability to attack a raider’s lower body makes him a brilliant asset against raiders who are known to falter against the Ankle Hold and Thigh Hold.
Since his breakthrough campaign in Season 5, Vishal Bhardwaj has managed more Super Tackles than any other player in vivo Pro Kabaddi and the Telugu Titans ace credited his experience with circle-style kabaddi for his proficiency in a one-on-one duel.
“In circle-style kabaddi, the playing area is huge and only one defender can engage against a raider,” revealed Bhardwaj, “So, it is a proper duel between two players. And to win those, you need great strength, technique, and grit.”
“So, my training regime in circle-style helps my game in standard-style, where I know what it takes to pin down a raider by myself long enough for my teammates to join in,” he explained.
As numbers and testimonies suggest, a number of factors have swung the tide of the Super Tackle situation in the defenders’ favour. While a lot of it has to do with the skills of the players, the analytics have also contributed massively to the spike and one can expect the trend to continue in the upcoming seasons of vivo Pro Kabaddi.