Rohit Kumar is often seen stretching out his arm and using his reach to get a touch point when he is raiding. His long strides keep him balanced, his arm's span keeps him just out of reach of prying defenders. At the other end of the spectrum, the relatively diminutive Pardeep Narwal lives up to his 'Record-Breaker' tag with dives (or Dubkis) as he brushes against flailing hands to earn several touch points.
The difference? About three inches in height. Rohit Kumar stands tall at 6 feet 1 inch, while Pardeep Narwal executes his move from a ceiling of 5'10. Both are prolific at scoring points, discarding the general consensuses that the world of VIVO Pro Kabaddi raiders is a domain of just taller players.
But how much of a difference, if any, can a certain body type make to kabaddi? The short answer is - a lot or not at all depending on how you use your natural advantage. Just as it's easier for a swimmer with a wider wingspan to glide across the pool or a tall player to slam-dunk in basketball, taller raiders with have a better reach which gives them an edge in attack. That, however, is not to say that those who are bereft of such characteristics aren't effective raiders.
"Height is not a factor for me," says Pardeep Narwal, who averages nearly 10 points a game through his career and is the league's most successful raider. "It's important to understand your body's mobility and flexibility and how to use that to your advantage. Once you do, you can make any body type work for you."
Monu Goyat raided alongside Pardeep in Season 5 for Patna Pirates and he had a first-hand view of the season's best raider in action. For him, the best combination is height and speed even though he stands at just 5'9" and has collected 19 Super 10s in the preceding two seasons, second only to Narwal.
"The taller you are, the more your reach is," affirms Goyat, who now plays for U.P. Yoddha. "So that adds pressure on the opposition's defence. Those players who aren't very tall do not have these benefits, but they tend to be quicker."
Correlation betweens heights and stats
Gujarat Fortunegiants coach Manpreet Singh, meanwhile, elucidated that every player had their own specialty and, with the right kind of training, it is possible even for shorter players to do well as raiders.
"When I work with shorter raiders, besides their natural game I also tell them to focus on their speed," Manpreet Singh tells prokabaddi.com. They can use skills like the jump, Dubki, turn and sliding more easily than their tall counterparts.
"Their speed also helps them get a touch on, both, the Corner and his second man if the defence has even a slight lapse in concentration," he adds. "Thus, they can excel in getting touch points even if their shorter heights gives them a disadvantage while going for the bonus."
Nevertheless, tall raiders swear by their height. "Whoever has had success as a raider in the league, if you look at them, you'll see that most of them are pretty tall," Iceman Ajay Thakur points out. "For example, Siddharth Desai, Rahul Chaudhari, Pawan Kumar Sehrawat and Rohit Kumar are all tall. Height gives you an advantage while trying for touch points and the bonus."
A glance at the leaderboard for VIVO Pro Kabaddi's all-time top raiders, however, shows us that its top five features raiders on both sides of the six-foot mark. The phenomenon that is Pardeep Narwal – leader in the league's all-time raid points chart – shows just how a shorter height helps plan escapes with ease as proved by his favourite surprise move - the Dubki.
In the all-time raid points list, the 5’10 Narwal leads from the six-footed Chaudhari, showcasing diverse heights at the top.
Although in Season 6, the towering Desai and Sehrawat reached new heights, the likes of Narwal, Goyat and the 5'7 Nitin Tomar show that there's plenty to look up to for shorter raiders as well.