Season 5 of VIVO Pro Kabaddi is in full swing with the action on the mat now reaching simmering point. While the players take centre stage in the stadium, there are plenty of individuals working tirelessly to ensure that everything goes according to plan, without any glitches. As far as avoiding hiccups is concerned, the margin for error is virtually non-existent if you are a referee.

Experienced referees Kripa Shankar Sharma and Ajit Kumar Bidhuri have already shared their experience with This time around, we caught up with Mythreyee Rao, who is a part of the technical department that helps the referees keep up with the high-octane action in the stadium.

“I basically do the reports of kabaddi. The score which is projected on the giant screen is done by the technical department. We have an electronic scorer. We also have manual scoring which is done by one of the referees. Then we have a third raid person as well who keeps a track of the do-or-die raids. One person keeps the track of the raiding time because each raid is of thirty seconds. So, we stop the time if there is a time-out and all that,” Rao said.

She continued: “I do the starting line-ups which we receive from the team manager one hour before the match so we come to know who is in the starting seven, which then goes to all the sections like the public, the press, the announcers and everyone else. So, everybody knows what the starting seven is. Then bring out the score sheets, get the third raid chart and after the match I compile the scores and send it to the various departments.”

Expanding on the challenges which both they and referees face to keep abreast of the action, Rao added: “The referee has to have eyes on the back of his or her head as well because a referee is the one who has to be everywhere at the same time. Especially in VIVO Pro Kabaddi a referee has a very tough time because their scope of movement is limited due to camera placement. He or she has a limited area to move and it’s a very fast game so that’s why there are two helpers for the referee. There are two umpires on the either side of the mat.”

Rao was quick to laud the role of Star Sports and Mashal Sports when she talked about the exponential growth the game has seen since the inception of VIVO Pro Kabaddi. “India have been champions from the time kabaddi started but we were not in the limelight like cricket is. Pro Kabaddi brought the sport to the living rooms of people. Everyone now watches kabaddi, there is no age group which doesn’t watch kabaddi. People are so excited for Pro Kabaddi that you will find the streets empty after 8 pm. All thanks to Star Sports and Mashal Sports,” she said.

She further went on to elaborate on the immense sense of pride she now feels at the reception afforded to kabaddi players these days. “People at one time were not comfortable saying that I am a kabaddi player because it was once considered a rural game. But because of Pro Kabaddi the players are really confident to say that I’m a kabaddi player. Earlier there was not much fan following for kabaddi even when the national team had won so many gold medals in the Asian Games, but now after Pro Kabaddi everyone knows the players and they go crazy when they see the players at airports or wherever. So, it really is a proud moment. I’m glad that I could see this,” Rao said.

When asked about the involvement of women in kabaddi and if they face any specific challenges, Rao opined: “Women have been playing kabaddi for a long time. They have also won a lot of gold medals at the Asian level. We have a close rivalry with the Iran’s women kabaddi team. I hope that women’s Pro Kabaddi also comes about in time. There is no challenge except the ground measurements because the ground measurements are different for men and women. Other than that, there is no challenge,” she concluded.