In the 2018-19 season of the Pro Kabaddi League, Dabang Delhi reached the play-offs for the first time in the history of their franchise. While the likes of captain Joginder Narwal, former Iranian captain Meraj Sheykh, Ravinder Pahal and Vishal Mane pulled their weight, it was the young rookie Naveen Kumar who made the telling impact for Delhi. The youngster scored 177 points in 22 matches and drew plaudits from fans and opponents alike.
Perhaps seeing the impact Naveen had for Delhi last season, teammate Mane believes that the youngsters in the Delhi squad would build up on last season's play-off run. According to the veteran defender, younger players would pose more of a threat to sides given their largely unknown style of play.
"Given their young age, their fitness and movement are very good and they have impressed us in training. The only cause for concern is that whether they have the confidence to transport their form in training onto the mat during matches," Mane said in an interaction with Firstpost.
Mane picked out all-rounder Vijay Malik and raiders Neeraj Narwal and Sumit from the young brigade to pitch in with crucial points in the upcoming season.
"I consider Vijay to be the joker in our deck of cards. You put him any position and he'll give you points," Mane said.
"Neeraj is also a very good raider. Despite being tall, his movements are lithe. You can't really pick his game. One time he'll jump over you and the next time, dubki laga ke nikal jaega!
"Sumit is also a promising player. All these guys are waiting for a chance to shine and if they grab it, the competition will be intense to get into the starting seven," he added.
With the zonal league system being dropped in favour of a regular league system, Mane believes that teams will be in a better position to recover and strategise for their matches.
"The issue with the zone system was that we played the teams in our zone thrice but the teams in the other zone only once. Therefore it was difficult to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the other team because we only played them once. This time we'll play every team twice and that will give us the chance to strategise better for teams," the Mumbai-based defender added.
Having played an important role in taking Delhi to the play-offs for the first time last season, Mane admits that it will be tougher for Delhi this time as teams would be wary of them. However, he believes that with a good pre-season and proper game management, Delhi could make a tilt for the title.
"When you play with the intensity to make it to the playoffs, injuries are bound to happen. That is when you look to your other players to step up and make their experience count.
"Every match from the play-off onwards is a do-or-die match. You make one mistake and your team is out. So our focus was to improve our fitness and be sharp even after the 22 league-stage matches are over. We are not planning just for 22 matches, we are planning for 26," Mane signed off.
Updated Date: Jul 18, 2019 21:41:40 IST