Puneri Paltan have had a strong start to their VIVO Pro Kabaddi Season 5 campaign and are one of the early favourites to make the qualifiers. The Paltan were always going to be a powerhouse team this year with the likes of Deepak Hooda, Rajesh Mondal, Sandeep Narwal and Girish Maruti Ernak, all in their squad. However, the experience and skill of veteran defender Dharmaraj Cheralathan is something that cannot be overstated. A winner with Patna Pirates last season, Cheralathan’s presence in Pune’s ranks is an invaluable luxury. One of the most respected players on the kabaddi circuit, there is no doubt he will have a massive role to play over the course of the season both on and off the mat. The evergreen defender, who comes from Tamil Nadu, recently sat down with prokabaddi.com for an exclusive interview. Here are some excerpts.

Please tell us about your kabaddi journey.

I started kabaddi in school. Later I would play kabaddi tournaments in my village, and everyone motivated me to become a kabaddi player. My family also supported me. I went on to play in local, state and national level tournaments and soon I got a job in Railways and represented them. I continued playing national tournaments and then Pro Kabaddi came along, so I that’s when I got the opportunity to play here.

You’re one of the senior players in Pro Kabaddi, so tell us about the difficulties you face?

Injuries happen. The game also gets you down if you don’t perform well sometimes. Maintaining the fitness is important as well. So there are a lot of difficulties.

What kind of recognition do you receive as a kabaddi player?

Before Pro Kabaddi no one knew us but everyone knows us now. They have started KBD Juniors as well and it’s really good.

Could you please share your most memorable moment in kabaddi so far?

I have played a lot and there are many moments but in Pro Kabaddi this is my fifth season and I have got good recognition and I really cherish that.

Do you have any advice for youngsters who consider you as their idol?

My advice to them is to always remain fit, have a proper diet, be disciplined and play the sport well.

What’s your fitness secret?

There is no secret. I follow the diet well and try to be fit most of the times. If you are fit, then there is no difficulty.

Do you think age is a factor this season?

No, age is not the factor. It’s a long season so there are chances of injuries. The season started and some players got injured, so that’s an issue.

Do you think that if the senior players remain fit they can play the entire season?

Yes, they can if they remain fit.

What are your thoughts on the possibility of kabaddi being included in the Olympics?

It will be a good thing for the sport as well as the young players. They will get more opportunities to play.

Tell us about the kabaddi culture in Tamil Nadu.

There are a lot of players in Tamil Nadu. In the late 90s, the sport started to decline because there were not as many opportunities as there are now. Plus, there are always chances of getting injured. But because of Pro Kabaddi everything has changed.

Do you think the inclusion of Tamil Thalaivas in Pro Kabaddi can revive interest in the sport in Tamil Nadu?

Yes, because of that many people are getting interested in the sport.