After succumbing to a defeat against Bengal Warriors last time around, new-comers U.P. Yoddha will be looking to get their VIVO Pro Kabaddi Season 5 campaign back on track at The Arena in Ahmedabad on Saturday when they take on Telugu Titans. The Lucknow-based outfit will be hoping that a return to the mat of their star raider and most expensive player in the league, Nitin Tomar will provide them with a timely boost after the youngster was side-lined for most of their previous encounter against the Warriors due to injury. The Rs 93-lakh raider, who was one of the revelations of India’s 2016 Kabaddi World Cup triumph, spoke candidly to in an exclusive interview. Here are the excerpts.

You are from a wrestling family, so how did you end up choosing kabaddi?

Our village is known as a wrestling village. Over there you will find a wrestler in every family. I also started wrestling; my uncles used to teach me. Then in school we did not have wrestling; we played kabaddi there. So, we formed a team in school and played during the annual school sports. Then we went on to play against other schools and there we performed well. That’s how it all started.

Your performances were really good during the Kabaddi World Cup last year especially against Iran, so what memories do you hold close to your heart?

Every player dreams to play for their country. When our team was behind then I entered the match as a substitute and the team trusted me at the time. So, it was my responsibility as well to not let my team down and it was a do-or-die raid where I scored two points for the team that I hold closest to my heart.

You are the highest paid player this season, how does that make you feel?

It felt really good because Manjeet Chhillar was the highest bid [at the time] so I never thought of beating him. So, when my bid started and the number kept rising, I didn’t believe that it was me everyone was bidding for.

How has VIVO Pro Kabaddi changed your life?

VIVO Pro Kabaddi not only has changed my life but has also changed the lives of other players. First kabaddi was only played in villages but now because of Pro Kabaddi it has reached the cities as well as other countries. Pro Kabaddi has given a lot of fame to many players and me because of which even my family conditions have improved.

You are from UP and you are playing for UP, so how do you feel?

It really feels nice to play for my home team but also handling the captaincy. There is always motivation about that and I know I have to take my team to the final.

Who is your idol in kabaddi?

Captain Cool Anup Kumar from U Mumba is my idol.

You are now playing on the same mat as your idol, how does that feel?

I never thought I’d get the opportunity to play with him but it’s a very good feeling. I played with him in the World Cup so yes, it feels really nice to play with my idol.