While kabaddi may seem like a viable career option now, it wasn’t always the case prior to the inception of VIVO Pro Kabaddi in 2014. Many individuals have benefited from the exponential rise of the sport since but none more so than the players themselves. One such player Mahendra Rajput of Gujarat Fortunegiants recently spoke to prokabaddi.com about the changing nature of the sport and the impact it has had on the lives of the players. "I started playing kabaddi when I was in eighth standard. There is a university in my village which has a kabaddi club where my seniors used to play. So, looking at them I learned how to play kabaddi. I played for two years and then I stopped playing because I failed my tenth as my father told me not to play after that. Then I started helping my father in his business but I used to play kabaddi without letting anybody know," Rajput said.

He continued: “When I used to pick up some injury I always told my mother about it and she kept it a secret from my father. After I got a job I came to Mumbai because here there are a lot of kabaddi clubs. I played for the Maharashtra Police team and improved my game. I was selected four times for the Maharashtra state team where I also captained the side. Then I got an opportunity to play in Pro Kabaddi. So, this how it all started for me.”

On his selection to kabaddi’s grandest stage, Rajput said: I wasn’t selected for the first season, up until halfway through the league. Because players were getting injured and the teams wanted more players in the squad. I was playing tournaments in Maharashtra where I performed well and ended up getting selected for Bengal Warriors. So, this is how I got chosen for VIVO Pro Kabaddi.”

Rajput also singled out his first season in the league as the most memorable moment of his career so far. “The most memorable moment is when I got selected for the Bengal team in the second half of the first season because I never thought that I would be selected to play,” he said.

Considered a do-or-die raid specialist, Rajput revealed his secret formula for do-or-die situations. “A raider should only think about what he has to do because it is a 30-second raid. I personally think that in a do-or-die raid a raider should only raid for 20 seconds because in the last 10 seconds the raider comes under pressure. Those 20 seconds are very important because in that time a raider has to do whatever he has to do and that’s it,” he said.

When asked if he had any message for young aspiring talents, he added: “I just want to tell them that it is alright that they follow us on the mat but it is also important for them to know what we do off the mat; how we maintain our fitness, how we focus on the game. The young players think that we can directly go and play because of which they get a lot of injuries. The message is that focus on the fitness, then it will be easy for them to do what we do on the mat.”