As the fervor for kho-kho continues to sweep across India, the stage is set for the exhilarating second edition of the Ultimate Kho Kho (UKK) tournament in 2023. Scheduled to take place from December 24, 2023, to January 14, 2024, in the vibrant city of Cuttack, Odisha, this season promises to be a spectacle of speed, strategy, and sportsmanship.
A Historic Player Draft
The journey to the 2023 season began with the player draft held on November 21, 2023, where 145 players out of 272 were carefully chosen to join the league. Interestingly, 18 players were retained by the franchises from the previous season, injecting a sense of continuity and loyalty into the evolving narrative of UKK.
The Six Powerhouses
Six dynamic teams will grace the kho-kho battleground, each bearing a distinctive identity. The Chennai Quick Guns, Gujarat Giants, Mumbai Khiladis, Odisha Juggernauts, Rajasthan Warriors, and Telugu Yoddhas are poised to bring their A-game, vying for supremacy and the coveted UKK title.
Evolution of Ultimate Kho Kho
UKK, a franchise-based kho-kho league, burst onto the scene in 2022, gaining rapid popularity. In its inaugural season, which ran from August 14 to September 4, 2022, Odisha Juggernauts emerged as the champions, captivating the audience with their thrilling victory over Telugu Yoddhas in the final.
Notably, UKK soared to become the third-most viewed non-cricket competition in India, trailing only behind the Pro Kabaddi League and the Indian Super League. The league’s success prompted Sony Pictures Network India to ink a substantial 5-year broadcasting deal worth ₹200 crore (US$25 million), underlining the growing influence of kho-kho in the Indian sports landscape.
Unconventional Rules for Unparalleled Entertainment
To elevate the excitement, UKK introduced several rule modifications, making the game more captivating for both players and spectators. From a reduced playing field size to innovative scoring systems like “Running Touch,” “Sky Dive,” and “Pole Dive,” UKK promises a unique kho-kho experience.
The league also stands out with a visionary approach, as plans are underway to launch a women’s version of UKK in the coming years. Additionally, future editions aim to expand to eight teams, potentially featuring a team from Northeast India. The inclusion of venues in multiple cities and the possibility of foreign players joining the league will undoubtedly contribute to the global appeal of kho-kho.
A Financial Milestone
Ahead of the second season, UKK achieved a historic milestone by becoming the first Indian sports league to secure private equity-based funding. A UK-based group recognized the potential of UKK, providing the league with the financial backing necessary to fuel its growth and secure its position in the competitive sports industry.
Unveiling the Modified Rules
The UKK rules, while rooted in the traditional framework of kho-kho, incorporate intriguing twists to amplify the game’s intensity. With only seven players on the attacking team, a compact playing field, and a dynamic “Wazir” role, UKK promises a fast-paced and strategic spectacle. The introduction of powerplays, shortened turn durations, and a unique tiebreaker named “Minimum Chase” add layers of complexity and unpredictability to the game.
The Countdown Begins
As the countdown to the 2023 Ultimate Kho Kho season begins, anticipation is high for the clash of the titans and the emergence of new kho-kho legends. With the league evolving, breaking barriers, and embracing innovation, UKK is undoubtedly on the path to becoming a cornerstone of India’s sporting legacy. Get ready to witness kho-kho like never before – fast, furious, and absolutely unforgettable!