As Tamil Nadu gears up for its debut in the forthcoming season five of Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), the team’s coach K Baskaran said the goal is “to at least reach the play-offs.”
The pre-season camp will be important and the team, with a blend of experience and youth, looks capable of doing well in the League, he said.
“We are confident about ourselves and the goal is to make the play-offs in the first season,” Baskaran told PTI.
The popular league, now into its fifth season, will now have a team from Tamil Nadu, co-owned by a consortium – Iquest Enterprises Private Limited, which comprises Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar and serial entrepreneur N Prasad.
The franchise’s CEO Varun Tripuraneni said, “I will call it a natural progression. Having bought teams in Indian Super League (football) and Premier Badminton League, we were always looking to expand to other sports. When we thought of owning a team in the PKL and Chennai was the first preference.”
“We were fairly new to the sport and we didn’t have a lot of time since our franchise was formed. So getting Baskaran on board as coach was a plus as he has enough knowledge to mentor the players, having been a part in four previous editions of PKL (with Jaipur Pink Panthers for three years and one year with Puneri Paltan),” Tripuraneni said.
He said now that the auctions had been completed and the roster set, the focus would be on pre-season training. Once the team’s name and logo are finalised, the management would hit the ground running with regard to organising training camps and promotions.
The franchise has gone in for a mix of experience and youth and coach Baskaran had the task of getting the players ready for Season-5, he added.
There are several players from Tamil Nadu in the squad and this, he said, could help draw crowds when the team plays in Chennai.
Tripuraneni said he expected Tendulkar to be fairly involved with the team as with the ISL team (Kerala Blasters) for which he provided key inputs.
“Think he (Tendulkar) will be involved in decision making,” the CEO said.
He also outlined plans to reach out to kabaddi-lovers across the State and programmes to unearth talent at the grass-root level.
On his part, Baskaran said he was glad to have been made coach of the Chennai team and added, “it is a homecoming of sorts for me.”
“I had always been asked why there was no team from Chennai in PKL and now that one is in place, there will be more excitement in the league,” he said.
Stating that the management had opted for a balanced squad with a good mix of seniors and young players, he said training ahead of the season would be important.
“If we are well prepared, we can expect good results. The pre-season camp will be held either in Coimbatore or Chennai.”
Also, he said keeping the long season in mind due to the inclusion of four additional franchises, the Chennai team’s management had gone for a 25-man squad, to enable provide players enough chances and rest too.
He said Amit Hooda (the franchise’s costliest pick at Rs 63 lakh) and Ajay Thakur were the only well-known players apart from C Arun, a TN player, but expected the young bunch to gel together and produce good results.
Baskaran also picked Bhavani Rajput, who hails from Madhya Pradesh and Korean player Dong Ju Hong to be the surprise packets for the team.
“There are eight Tamil Nadu players in our squad while a total of 19 from the State are in various teams, which is an indication of the standard of kabbadi here,” he said.
The Nehru indoor stadium, which is likely to be the home venue for the Tamil Nadu franchise, is one of the best stadiums, the coach said, adding, “we expect the crowd’s whole-hearted support.”
The franchise is also planning to embark on a talent hunt across the State once the PKL season winds up, said Baskaran, who hails from Sooliyakkottai in Thanjavur district.