'Happy to see kabaddi receive attention'

'Happy to see kabaddi receive attention'

No team has been as consistent as U Mumba in the second edition of the Pro Kabaddi League. Their successful run so far can be attributed to team effort but even in that united assault, two individuals have stood out — Shabeer Bapu and Jeeva Kumar.

The two have been instrumental in helping Mumbai script fine victories and as a result, the runners-up of the inaugural edition are now sitting atop of the table with 50 points, having already qualified for the semifinals.

Apart from playing together for Mumba, both Jeeva and Shabeer turn out for Karnataka at the national level and are employed with the State Bank of Mysore in Bengaluru.  Pleased with the response received for his show in the league, Jeeva said, "Kabaddi players are finally earning the respect they deserve. The game is receiving the attention it needs and we are happy about it."

The 34-year old from Kanyakumari represented Tamil Nadu for seven years before shifting his base to Karnataka. Son of a farmer, the experienced defender feels the franchises should spot emerging talents and nurture them in the upcoming editions to promote the sport.

For Shabeer, it has been all about being dedicated and passionate to the sport he loves. Hailing from Palakkad in Kerala, Shabeer has emerged as a one of the most valuable players for Mumbai. "My father is an auto driver in Kerala. It was challenging to beat financial hardships and realise my dreams but now I am very happy with my career," said the burly raider.

After training at Sports Authority of India, Chennai, Shabeer was coached by E Bhaskaran in the Indian Army before he settled down in Karnataka as an SBM employee.

"It has been four years since I made my debut for Karnataka. The State has immense talent and even in the league, there ten players from Karnataka playing in different teams," said Shabeer.

Both players exuded confidence ahead of the semifinal. “Irrespective of the opponent, our goal is to reduce our mistakes and not become complacent. In the remainder of the league stage, we would like to try out our bench strength and give chances to young players,” said Jeeva.

Shabeer, who was rested in the last couple of matches, said he was raring to go. “I had suffered a shoulder injury three months ago. Since we were assured of a place in the last four, I decided to rest my shoulder ahead of important matches,” he said.

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