Narender Kandola - Tamil Thalaivas' accidental hero in PKL Season 9
Narender Kandola stepped up for the Tamil Thalaivas when needed the most in PKL 9. Here is the story of Tamil Thalaivas' accidental hero.
Jind, Haryana: As the sun sets on Budain village in Jind district of Haryana, the members of the Kandola household gathered slowly from their daily chores to sit together and watch TV.
Usually in a village, this means that it will be a TV serial or some movie, but in this Haryana village that is not the case. They gathered to watch their kid 'Nanhe' in action at the Pro Kabaddi League. Nanhe is none other than one of the new kabaddi stars on the horizon, Narender Kandola.
Budain is home to some of the finest PKL players, including the likes of Vikas Kandola, Sandeep Kandola and Vikram Kandola. The latest addition to this list is Tamil Thalaiva's new hero Narender.
"He was crazy for kabaddi since his childhood. He was 8 years old when he would request me to play with him. He played with his friends, he kept playing. He is very hardworking and that is a reason he is on TV now," his mother said, beaming with pride.
Narender's father is a little shy in front of the camera. With a grin he said, "Seeing my son on TV fills me with joy. He is doing well and I hope he keeps doing well for us."
Like other kabaddi aspirants from here, Narender followed the path laid down by the first star from his kabaddi-crazy village - Vikas Kandola.
"Our village loves kabaddi and that is how I also picked up this sport. Vikas Kandola belongs to my village and I followed his footsteps," Narender told The Bridge.
As a few lazy cows made their way across the Kandola house, Narender's grandmother said with a laugh, "Mujhe jyada samajh me nahi aata kuch, lekin humara baccha hai toh dekh ke accha lagta hai. (I don't understand much but I love that our kid is there.)"
Narender's Rise for Tamil Thalaivas
Narender's rise has been phenomenal this season. Picked as NYP (New Young Player) by Tamil Thalaivas, he was expected to play a second fiddle to star raider Pawan Sehrawat or third fiddle to the pair of Pawan and Ajinkya Pawar.
An unfortunate injury to Pawan in the first game gave Narender a chance to come under the spotlight. He has been shining since then.
In a debut season, scoring 243 raid points with a 60 percent strike rate is no joke, especially when you are filling in the shoes of Pawan Sehrawat.
But Narender has always been known to make the kabaddi mat his own whenever he is tasked with taking on defenders. It was his exploits at the Khelo India Games which tempted Tamil Thalaivas to go for him.
"His reaction time is very good and due to that, he has an edge over the defenders trying to tackle him. Narender has insane stamina and he has raided continuously for hours while practising here in the village," his childhood coach Sandeep said.
One of the highlights of Narender's season is that he was extremely calm under tough situations and scored points off defenders who are tough to deal with.
"He is fearless. I always told him to not worry about the tackle. He plays his game with full freedom. His judgement coupled with his fearlessness and his reaction time makes him a brilliant raider," Sandeep talked about the qualities which make Narender stand out.
As Tamil Thalaivas bowed out on Thursday against Puneri Paltan in the semi-finals, everybody in the village still celebrated Narender's season performance.
"We are proud of what Narender did. Sports is not always about winning, it is also about not giving up and we are very much proud of Narender for that," concluded Sandeep.
Tamil Thalaivas - A Season to Remember
Tamil Thalaivas endured a rollercoaster season, losing two different captains and one coach. Despite so many problems, they reached the semi-finals before Puneri Paltan stopped a fairytale ending to the story.
Coach Ashan Kumar, who played a key role in changing their fortunes, said in an earlier interview with The Bridge: "It is evident that Narender has done well in Pawan's absence. He is a young guy and we keep him away from unnecessary pressure. We work with him on his mistakes and keep him away from negativity. It is his debut season and the nervousness is going away slowly."
It is not only his coach but kabaddi legends like Anup Kumar also who have taken note of the youngster's performance. "I will say he has impressed everyone with his abilities and replaced Pawan Sehrawat very well for the Tamil Thalaivas," said Anup.
With Puneri Paltan ending the dream of Tamil Thalaivas, one would wonder what the results would have been had Pawan been with Tamil Thalaivas. But one thing is for sure - no one would have expected the rise and growth of Narender Kandola.
The surprise package of the season of Pro Kabaddi League and the accidental hero for Tamil Thalaivas, Narender Kandola has definitely put his name into kabaddi folklore by being the hero in times of crisis for his team.
One would hope that he comes back next season and does wonders again. Maybe next time, he can help his team cross the final barrier.