The sport of kabaddi has seen a meteoric rise in the past few years since the advent of VIVO Pro Kabaddi. The league has managed to bring India’s own game to each and every household and has granted celebrity status to the players, a number of whom may have had to give up the sport they love because of a lack of opportunities. One such player is U.P. Yoddha raider Rishank Devadiga, who says he is eternally grateful to the league for the fame and fortune it has brought him.

Born in a chawl among the busy by-lanes of India’s maximum city, Mumbai, Devadiga had a passion for kabaddi since a very young age that saw him being a part of his college team. However, dreams don’t come cheap in the country’s financial capital and soon circumstances forced the fiery raider to give up the sport and pursue a much more stable career option. He chose to enter the hospitality industry in order to earn his bread and butter. It was a tough time for Devadiga but he made sure he was still actively playing his favourite sport at the local level whenever he got the opportunity.

True talent can never remain hidden for too long, though, and Devadiga was soon spotted by his eventual kabaddi coach who asked him to play for a Mumbai district match. It was a God sent opportunity for the youngster and he grabbed it with both hands. He worked hard to improve his game and was eventually picked up by U Mumba in the inaugural VIVO Pro Kabaddi season as a catchment player.

From a chawl to an apartment

Things really started to look up for Devadiga from there as his consistent performance was one of the reasons the team from Mumbai made it to the finals of the league. Performing on the big stage also meant that the raider’s future was secure financially and he could focus on doing the one thing he loves- playing kabaddi.

“Playing in VIVO Pro Kabaddi has really made a big difference to my life. Earlier, I lived in a chawl but now we live in an apartment. VIVO Pro Kabaddi has given us a lot of fame and it has changed my life. I never thought that we could get so much fame because of kabaddi and I always thank God for giving me this opportunity,” said Devadiga while speaking exclusively to during Season 5, his voice full of humility.

It is this humility in spite of his superlative performances that has taken the raider places he may not even have dreamed of going while working a pay cheque-to-pay cheque hospitality job. His ability to keep his head down and concentrate on the role saw him quickly rise through the U Mumba ranks, which boasted of stalwarts like Captain Cool Anup Kumar and Shabeer Bappu. He was soon picked up by Season 5 debutants U.P. Yoddha where he assumed a more senior role in the team.

“I went to U Mumba as a youngster and learned how Anup Kumar motivates the youngsters and how he plays the game. Here in U.P. Yoddha Nitin (Tomar) and I are of a similar age so there isn’t much of a hierarchy. We play as friends and we have a great unity in the team,” Devadiga said, “We are leading this side together and I am enjoying this responsibility.”

Proven in every event

His performances often got over shadowed by the bigger names at both U.P. Yoddha and U Mumba but the raider still persevered and kept picking up points for the team’s cause.

In the recently concluded Senior National Kabaddi Championship the youngster’s leadership skills were finally put to the test on a big stage and he emerged with flying colours, leading Maharashtra to the title. It was an emotional moment for the raider who had gone from almost giving up on his dream to winning one of the biggest prizes in the world of kabaddi.

“I have been representing Maharashtra for the past 5-6 years and it was always my dream to play in the final but it never happened,” he said after the event. “This year we were more determined than ever to play the final, which made a difference.”

If there was ever a case to be made for never giving up on one’s dreams, then this has to be it. Now Devadiga’s sights are set on an even bigger prize - being among the elite few chosen to represent the country on the world stage at the Asian Games later this year.