In four editions of the Pro-Kabaddi League (PKL), the Telugu Titans have finished fifth, third, fifth and fourth. It portrays the true image of a side that have neither really waged a battle to win the title, nor have they slipped into obscurity. The Telugu Titans have been plagued by mediocrity. Inconsistency and the Telugu Titans have gone together like a horse and carriage. Quite obviously their war horse being captain Rahul Chaudhari, who has pulled his team, the carriage, single-handedly on many a night.
The Vizag-based team has had streaks of success in a season, but they have also been derailed by inexplicable periods of inconsistency, which is why they have never made the leap into the finals. A view that is endorsed by their coach, Naveen Kumar, too.
“Telugu Titans is a good team, they have done very well. They are extremely good in the initial stages of the game but somehow, probably because of lack of experience end up floundering it in must-win games,” Coach Naveen Kumar said to Firstpost in an exclusive interview.
“...and that is exactly why we bought the services of Rakesh Kumar in the auctions. In my opinion, the team never had a player of Rakesh’s calibre, who could wrest control of the game, especially when the match is at a critical stage. You need someone, who sees the game through for you and that is where veteran Rakesh’s experience comes in,” he added.
Apart from former India captain Rakesh Kumar, the team has bolstered their defence with the key additions of Rohit Rana and Amit Singh Chillar from Jaipur Pink Panthers and Bengal Warriors respectively.
Strengthening the defence department makes sense as that is an area where they have struggled in the previous years. The Titans are the strongest team when it comes to raiding having scored the most raid points, their captain and star raider, Rahul Chaudhari, boasts 482 points in four seasons of PKL ie 102 raid points than the second most successful raider Kashiling Adake.
Having said that, the Titans have made sure there isn’t any over-dependence on their leader alone, as they bought back Nilesh Salunke for a hefty Rs 49 lakh and roped in 22-year-old Iranian Mohsen Maghsoudloujafari.
“Maghsoudlou is somebody with terrific raiding prowess and he is one of the exciting prospects from our team,” said an impressed captain.
Chaudhari lavished praise on the Iranian, who will be making his Pro-Kabaddi debut, “None of the opposition teams know about his game as he is from Iran and will be making his Pro Kabaddi debut. The coach hasn’t decided on the final seven but I think he will be an asset for our team.”
With the tournament expanded to 12 teams and extended to 3 months, maintaining physical and mental fitness will be essential.
Chaudhari agreed that maintaining fitness in a contact sport such as Kabaddi over 3 months will not be easy but they have had long fitness session focusing on strength training and stamina building, he said.
The Telugu Titans coach said, “The boys gathered for the camp in Hyderabad on the 6 June. We started training from 7 June and will continue training till 27 July. We did not play any practice matches in the first 15 to 20 days as we focused only on improving fitness and stamina. If the boys aren’t fit, the chances of injury increase and if it is a key member of the side, it can really affect our chances.”
Although only 24 years old, Chaudhari, who has been with Telugu Titans since the league’s inception in 2014, will be seen carrying the mantle for his side. The introduction of Rakesh Kumar does help his cause but the team’s success will be directly proportional to how well the captain fares.
“Once the game starts, I don’t think about it (captaincy) too much, in fact even before the game being a captain is nominal. Only if I see a dip in the confidence of my player I motivate him. I don’t take any pressure of captaincy, whoever wants to take it can take,” he said rubbishing the theory of being a star player as well as a captain adds extra responsibility.
When asked about his feelings about leading the former India captain, “I have told my team earlier as well that just because I am the captain it doesn’t make me any superior.”
“It isn’t like if I am made the captain then only I will play. I have no problems going and asking Rakesh bhaisaab if he wants to become the captain. I have no interest in captaincy. I just want do well in my game. Give my 100 percent and try to win the game. And like I said I just a nominal captain, he is going to be handling all the team affairs internally, if you want to call him the captain then call him, for me he is my captain,” the Titan’s star raider added.
After playing for two PKL teams – Patna Pirates and U Mumba – Rakesh Kumar was picked by Telugu Titans for 45 lakhs. He will be filling in the all-rounder’s role for the side. Vinoth Kumar and Athul MS have had short stints in PKL before and this season they are likely to get more opportunities. Chaudhari believes that the talent is there and it's just the game nous that is what the youngsters will have to develop which will come with playing more games.
The Titans find themselves in Zone B of this year’s edition, which will comprise of teams like Bengaluru Bulls, former two-time PKL winner Patna Pirates, Bengal Warriors and new comers in UP Yoddhas and Tamil Thalivas as their competitors.
With the team covering most of their bases, their first aim will be to bring in consistency, which has eluded them all these years. Second not to lose the momentum during key moments of games. Despite recruiting defenders, there is little experience in their bench strength, so any injury can prove extremely costly. The Telugu Titans host new entrants Tamil Thalaivas in the opening game of the 5th edition of the league.
Probable starting 7:
Amit Chhillar, Rahul Chaudhari, Rakesh Kumar, Nilesh Salunke, Rohit Rana, Vinod Kumar, Vikas Kumar
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Updated Date: Jul 28, 2017 13:40:18 IST