Revealed! The Mumbai pacer behind rise of Pro Kabaddi League table-toppers

Updated: Oct 24, 2018, 20:46 IST | Subodh Mayure | Mumbai

Former Ranji fast bowler Swapneel Hazare introduces new-age fitness regimen, helping Puneri Paltan go to the top of the table in the ongoing league

Swapneel Hazare (right) during a training session with the Puneri Paltan kabaddi team
Swapneel Hazare (right) during a training session with the Puneri Paltan kabaddi team

Puneri Paltan is the toast of the Pro Kabaddi League this season and there is a cricket connection from Mumbai to them topping the table with 30 points. The guiding light on their fitness front is former India under-19 and Mumbai Ranji Trophy fast bowler Swapneel Hazare. Apart from sticking to a rigorous physical fitness regime, the kabaddi team have had to also watch what they eat.

Puneri Paltan's fitness trainer and former India U-19 and Mumbai Ranji fast bowler Swapneel Hazare has put the kabaddi players on a strict diet. "We have restrictions. Our players consume a lot of salads, chicken, fish and eggs. Only one portion of a sweet dish is allowed at lunch," Hazare, 38, told mid-day yesterday.

Swapneel Hazare
Swapneel Hazare

Like cricketers have to pass yoyo tests, kabaddi players need to clear cardiovascular and pro agility tests. Hazare said: "The cardiovascular test comprises running a distance of 3.2km in quick time and the timing must keep getting better. For example, on the first day of our Goa camp [in August], we did a fitness test on Rajesh Mondal, who ran this distance in 21 minutes. In September, on the last day of our Bangalore camp, he did it in 16 mins and 30 seconds. Similarly, players have to come up with improvements in the pro agility tests."

Pune skipper Girish Ernak reckoned the cricketer-turned-fitness trainer has made a remarkable difference to his team. "Swapneel charts out a fitness regime for each player on the basis of his body type. He has ensured that the team follow a strict diet. Our food contains very less spice and more of proteins, vitamins and minerals. He has also played a significant role in ensuring the team members recover quickly from injuries, a crucial aspect to sustain fitness during the three-month long PKL season," said Ernak.

Hazare, who started his fitness work with the team immediately after the player auction sets the fitness parameters long before the conditioning camps. "In kabaddi, every player has to weigh below 85 kilos. But, our focus was not on that weight limit. Our focus was on keeping fat levels down, because, when your fat percentage is low and your muscle mass is high, the performance level and recovery time is much better," added Hazare, who is in his second season at Pune.

"Players like Nitin Tomar and Girish [Ernak] have worked very hard to improve their fitness and are reaping rewards. The fittest player in our squad is young Shubham Shinde. When we started the camp, he was 63kgs, now he is 75kgs. He put on about 10kgs of muscle mass without any fat," said Hazare. A game of kabaddi lasts only 40 minutes — unlike six hours for cricket — but it requires a lot of physical strength and skill. And to attain this, experts like Hazare are a godsend.

Also Read: It's do or die for Indian kabaddi now

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