Video Analysis in Kabaddi: Blending Technology in India's desi game
The Bridge sat with Naveen Ningaiah (Head analyst, UP Yoddhas) to understand the usage of video analysis and tech in the desi game of Kabaddi.
Pro Kabaddi League started as an attempt to bring the desi game of India in front of the masses. PKL glamourized the sport with flashy jerseys, interactive promotion, and a prime time slot on the TV.
With so many things coming into the picture, Kabaddi evolved as a game, and it is not only about strength or power anymore. As much as it is played on the mat, it is played outside the mat in terms of strategy, planning, and analysis.
One of the most important facets of modern-day sports is video analysis. The Bridge sat down with Naveen Ningaiah (Head Analyst, U.P. Yoddhas and Founder of SportsKPI) to understand and break down the usage of video analysis in Kabaddi.
Pre-Season and Auction Strategy
With every team having a little purse in the auction, the franchise is bound to take young players from the New Young Players (NYP) program of PKL, which features youngsters from every part of the country.
"Everything starts from scouting. We have to take three NYPs and we do scouting for them. We keep travelling to different tournaments such as Khelo India, Junior Nationals, District Oturnamnets and local games," said Naveen about the scouting before auctions.
The scouting of young players and the existing ones have a lot of data going on, ranging from the skills to the ability to play under pressure.
"We build our own metrics, player indexes and systems using programming languages and machine learning. The system we build is accessible to the whole organization in order to take a collective decision."
"A lot of processes are involved in these analyses. We evaluate players according to their values. Someone might be great on paper or a big name but the value to the team is very important," explained Naveen how teams strategize for the auctions.
Auctions usually spring many surprises and leave fans and experts thinking about why the team made a certain move. Many players go unsold, or players go for the prices nobody expected.
"It might look unpredictable but it is all planned. We keep a check on numerous things and this is the value calculated. Parameters such as tough raiding, raids with fewer defenders, what is the situation when a player gets points, the strike rate in do-and-die raids, and performance in high-pressure situations. These are a few parameters which help us decide the amount of investment we need to put in a player," Naveen debunked the unpredictability of the auction.
Analysis during PKL Season
"PKL season analysis is distributed in two parts majorly. Pre-match analysis and post-match analysis. Pre-match analysis usually involves the SWOT analysis of the opponent. Their scoring pattern, usage of raiders and defenders, key players and many more things like this," he said.
The match highlights are watched multiple times to understand the skills of specific players and the opponent's strategy during certain situations.
"In the video session, we show how they raid and defend. We show the specific moments against certain players. During training, these situations are emulated to be match-ready," Naveen said.
"Post-match, there is a debriefing of the game. We tell the team what went wrong during the game and what are the possible solutions to avoid these mistakes," he added.
Acceptance of tech in Kabaddi
Being an indigenous game, Kabaddi and the players were alien to the thought of video analysis in this game. Still, it is a job role, and multiple kabaddi analysts can be seen burning their brains to break down the opponent's style of play.
Talking about accepting this new element in Kabaddi, Naveen said, "The technical staff is generally in touch with coaches and we update them on what happened or what changes we have to make. Coach communicates it during the video session and tells the players how to work on it."
With the teams having the luxury of analysts with them 24/7, the players have also started to utilize it for the betterment of their games.
"Players also come to us. They want to see how one specific raider does a bonus or how one defender tackles. It helps them plan out their strategy against specific players," Naveen said about the acceptance by players.
Growth of Video Analysis in Kabaddi
With video analysis and technological tools developing in a game like Kabaddi. While games like cricket, hockey, and football have decades of data to play with, Kabaddi data is still being documented.
"Everybody is understanding the use of this and players are trying to utilise it. It has grown from what it was in the first season. Now we have more comprehensive data and a bigger pool of stats to play with as compared to when it started, "Naveen said.
We have seen analysts in cricket, football, hockey, and many other games recording the match with a camera or phone to understand the tactics and different nuances; Kabaddi analysis is very much on books, numbers, and observation on the mat.
"I use my notebook and pen to record the data and put together all of it creating a comprehensive analysis. I see it growing immensely as all the teams are realizing its potential. While we are miles behind in terms of live analysis like football or high-tech like hockey but it is getting there," Naveen concluded with immense belief in the usage of technology.
A decade ago, it would have been a stretch to think that programming language, AI, and machine learning would be used in a sport like Kabaddi, but like other miracles of sports and science combined, this is the reality now.