With just a week to go for the finals of the Vivo Pro Kabaddi Season 5, the Puneri Paltan team is not leaving any stone unturned to ensure that they put up a tough fight in the games ahead. Ever since the League kicked off on July 28 in Hyderabad, the team has played 21 matches, of which it has lost just six matches.
Given the consistent performance of the team, B C Ramesh, Puneri Paltan’s head coach, believes that the team may emerge as the winner in the League this year. The final will be held in Chennai on October 28.
“Our team is in a good position now. We have managed to pull off a three-month long season with minimal injuries. Currently we are at the second spot in Zone A and are aiming to become no. 1 by defeating Gujarat on Friday. Our players are highly motivated as we have made it to the play-offs. We hope to keep the momentum going and win the title this year,” said the head coach.
Ramesh said that from the very beginning of the series, he has strongly believed that the team, which according to him has a “perfect mix of young talent and experienced players”, would manage to come this far.
Deepak Hooda, the captain, is the only player retained from last season, while the team has got veterans like Dharmaraj Cheralathan, Rajesh Mondal and Girish Ernak on board. Young players like Sandeep Narwal, Monu and Akshay Jadhav have strengthened the team further.
Elaborating on the strength points of his team, Ramesh said, “The diverse talent pool we have is our biggest strength. We have raiders like Deepak Hooda, Rajesh Mondal, and Monu, who will help us get points. At the same time, our defence is strong, with players like Dharmaraj, Ziaur, and Girish. Sandeep is a brilliant all-rounder who contributes to offense and defence. Our team members have also maintained their fitness levels, which has helped them sustain the three-month long season”.
As the team’s coach, Ramesh takes efforts to keep the morale high when his players lose a game, and also makes sure that they don’t get carried away by their victories. “Losing is part and parcel of sportsmanship. There is always a tomorrow, to improve oneself and perform better. When we lose, I tell them the same thing. When we win, I appreciate the team’s efforts, tell them to raise the bar in the next game and perform better,” he said.
According to Ramesh, some members of Puneri Paltan could turn out to be a “threat” to their opponents, because of their individual strengths. He said he admired Hooda for his consistency — this season he has crossed the 400 raid point mark — and felt that Sandeep Narwal was an asset for the team because of his ability to raid and tackle, which made him a “five star all-rounder”.
“Besides, do-or-die specialist Rajesh Mondal has also performed quite well for us. Whenever the team is under pressure, he steps in and eases the tension. Monu, the youngest player in Puneri Paltan, has been a pleasant surprise. He has fetched points for the team in many critical situations and has performed well under pressure. Rinku adds to our team’s defence and I feel that in the coming seasons, he will become an amazing defender,” he added.
On the team’s strategy for the finals, Ramesh said, “We are currently placed no. 2 in the points table. There is a chance we may move up. Our strategy would be to win the eliminator matches and go to the qualifiers. Our team is also spending a lot of time in the gym to maintain their physical fitness and endurance.”