After four successful seasons, the fifth season of the Pro Kabaddi League is just three weeks aways. And after picking up the best players in the auctions, second season winners U-Mumba are all set for the upcoming challenge. With the league supposed to be played for three months, the Mumbai franchise is not leaving any stone unturned to make sure that players’ fitness is at its peak throughout the tournament. Having the coolest captain around, U-Mumba coach Bhaskaran Edachery revealed that the new squad is jelling well and they have undergone its pre-season training stint in Dehradun and close to Indian military camp.
“The morale of the defence is always high when the raiders are strong. We have four strong raiders who will allow the defence to take risks and go for the kill during each of the opponent’s raid. I feel every team this season has good raiders, including us. We worked on a strategy and managed to achieve exactly what we wanted in the auction,” said Bhaskaran ahead of the season’s start.
Bhaskaran believes picking right players and right combinations is very important, especially, for such a long season. The 52-year old coach also added that three of the best raiders are there in their team.
“From the 136 players that were a part of the New Young Players’ (NYP) Camp this year, the three we selected are within the top 20. We chose defenders because we always need a backup for defence, especially for such a long season. They are very energetic, have played in the junior, senior nationals as well as the Federation Cup, so come with some experience under their belt,” he said.
One of the most successful teams in the history of the kabaddi league, U-Mumba failed to qualify for the playoffs in the previous edition. Bhaskaran seems satisfied with the addition of Iran’s Hadi Oshtorak.
“Barring Anup and Shabeer, all the remaining players are new to the team. Joginder (Narwal) and Suresh (Kumar) come with a lot of experience. Kuldeep is an excellent all-rounder who can destroy a raider. Hadi (Oshtorak) as a corner is also very strong. So I can’t really comment on who is the strongest as each of them come with a strong, different skill set.”
“We will definitely benefit from being amongst the most successful teams in the league. U Mumba is known for its player selection, training, team management and overall functioning,” he said further.
With the Indian captain Anup being retained, Shabeer Bappu is the only player from the earlier squad.
“Anup has led the team ever since U Mumba came into existence. He has a very different reputation among the teams and players – he is an iconic figure in international kabaddi now. His nickname, ‘Captain Cool’, also describes how well he copes with pressure and is calm and collective in even the most stressful of situations on the mat. Having a good captain is very important especially when the players keep changing due to auctions. Given his experience, he plays a key role in grooming the youngsters in our side as well,” he added.
“Yes, the season is longer but the good thing is that the recovery period after each match has also significantly increased so it works well. There is time to recover and then concentrate on training again. Our 20-day fitness camp held in Dehradun was precisely for this reason too. We wanted to ensure that the players are physically fit to go through this long season,” Bhaskharan concluded when asked about player fitness during the extended season.