Before the start of the Pro Kabaddi season, Telugu Titans were tipped as favourites to lift the title with the additions of Season 6 sensation Siddharth Desai and former U Mumba coach Gholamreza Mazandarani. Nearly six weeks into the tournament, Titans find themselves in the bottom half of the table after a disastrous start with just one win, two draws, and five defeats.
It was only last week that the team registered their first win of the competition, which came against the Gujarat Fortunegiants in Ahmedabad. Despite boasting of players like Desai, Abozar Mohajermighani, Vishal Bhardwaj, Farhad Rahimi and Suraj Desai, Mazandarani’s side has struggled to find the right balance on the mat.
"At the start, we had a few problems. Some of the players are new, so the combination has not developed yet. I speak English and only 4-5 players understand English, so it’s not easy to communicate. My assistant and I also need some time to strategise. We’ve started badly, but we can finish on a high note," coach Mazandarani told Firstpost.
Titans endured a stuttering start in the season-opener and have been robbed of a win on a couple of occasions after ending up on the losing end in close encounters. The Iranian coach believes that much of the team's dismal form boils down to the erratic schedule, lack of match practice, insufficient recovery time, and the change of teams every year. Notably, some of the home teams have stuttered on home soil in the competition so far.
"Home leg is a bit of a problem for teams. Back-to-back matches don’t leave any time for rest and recovery. The practice time is also less than an hour. This is not enough. If they want our players to improve, then they should provide better things, especially some place and time to practice," says Mazandarani, who guided the Iranian national team to a gold medal in the 2018 Asian Games.
There was a lot of off-mat action before the season as players and coaches switched sides during the PKL auction. While it was a great sight for the fans and sport, coaches and players have found it difficult to settle into the new squad. The new-look Titans are yet to figure out how to tactically use Desai, Bhardwaj and captain Abozar on the mat. Similarly, even the rest of the squad has not been able to bridge the gap.
"The changing of teams every year is not good because I was with another team last year, another coach was with other teams. It doesn't help with the combination and understanding. For example, you have seen successful teams with coaches and players who have built a foundation over the years," says the 43-year-old coach.
After working with the Iranian national side and U Mumba, Mazandarani feels that Indian players are the best in business but Iranians are tactically superior and flexible. "I think Indian players play more matches and are better. Iranian players are more tactical. We have fewer players. Iranians can play in different positions, but Indian players only master one position, which is also equally good. But as a coach, I use my players in two or three positions; be it offence, defence, cover or corner."
Meanwhile, back in Iran, kabaddi has found relevance among the people. Wrestling, boxing and volleyball outweighed the sport in the past, but with the recent success, kabaddi is gaining popularity. "There are more changes coming. Back then, people would ask us 'why kabaddi'? We would play without shoes or proper gear. Kabaddi used to come after 30 other sports. Now, we have good players and the money on offer too," he concludes.
Updated Date: Aug 15, 2019 15:51:44 IST