Jaipur Pink Panthers, currently placed at the last spot in Zone A in this year’s Pro Kabaddi League, will play six matches of their ‘home’ leg at Tau Devi Lal Stadium, Panchkula, starting Friday. The matches were scheduled at Jaipur, but shifted to Panchkula just two weeks ago.
With team owner, actor Abhishek Bachchan, too arriving in Chandigarh on Thursday to boost the team’s morale in the six games, Jaipur Pink Panthers are looking towards making the most of the matches in Panchkula, also because most of the players belong to Punjab and Haryana.
Jaipur Pink Panthers will face Puneri Paltan in their first ‘home’ match in Panchkula on Friday. Their head coach Srinivas Reddy says venue change will not matter as the hall is almost same and the matches will be played on mat. “Playing in a city like Panchkula will mean that most of the players from Haryana and Punjab will be motivated to perform well in front of their real home crowd. Kabaddi is very popular in states like Haryana and Punjab and this is the the first time that the league matches are being played in this region. We will be aiming to start on a winning note here,” says Reddy.
Jaipur Pink Panthers won the inaugural edition of the Pro Kabaddi league in 2014, but this season has seen the team managing to win only four matches as compared to 10 losses and one draw. The team lost their last Zone A match against Dabang Delhi in November, followed by a 26-26 loss against Telugu Titans in Inter-zone Challenge match.
Last week, Panthers scored a 37-24 win over Tamil Thailaivas in another Inter-zone Challenge match. The team has only one player in the top-40 scoring players of the 12-team league with all-rounder Deepak Niwas Hooda with 142 points in 15 matches. He is number eight in total points table this season.
Coach Reddy believes that the team still has got a chance to advance to the knock-outs. “We have seven matches left in the league and still got a chance to reach the knock-out stage. The six matches to be played during the home leg will boost our morale and we will also be playing a Inter-zone wild card match against Bengaluru Bulls in Kolkata. We are taking it as one match at a time.
The two matches against Puneri Paltans were lost as we lost the first match by just two points and the second match was a draw. Not being able to put a collective effort has hurt our chances to score and we need to improve on that. Players like Hooda have shown that the team has got the talent. Other players need to match his game to help the team collect some winning points,” adds Reddy who coached South Korea in 2014 Asian Games and Australia in 2016 World Championships.
With the 12-team league seeing more than 150 players competing, including foreign players from countries like Iran, the coach believes that the league has helped to gather interest from villages and towns across India. “Obviously, the interest has grown in the game with the league being watched across villages and small towns in India. Kabaddi on mat was played for the first time at international level at 2002 Busan Asian Games and since then the game has grown. While the game is still played and popular on mud, players have adjusted well to playing on mat. The sport is now played in 36 countries and with more and more young players starting to play on mat, it is just like hockey where youngsters are now starting to play on AstroTurf, instead of mud,” says Reddy.