The memories of Bengaluru Bulls dominating the Pro Kabaddi League with their eye-catching displays are fading fast. The current team bears no traces of the side that reached two consecutive semi-finals in the opening two seasons. The likes of Manjeet Chhillar, Ajay Thakur and Dharmaraj Cheralathan are long gone, and few have arrived to fill their big boots.
The Bulls may have missed out on the playoffs by narrow margins in the previous two seasons, but the team hasn't had the look of title contenders for a while.
Rohit Kumar has been the solitary shining light in the Bulls' camp, but he has often lacked support to take the team to playoffs. To sum it up, Bulls haven't had a team, and the onus has always been on individuals to carry the team's hopes.
The Bulls' ownership has shown immense faith in coach Randhir Singh who has experienced the highs and lows in equal measure at the franchise. This season, former Puneri Paltan coach BC Ramesh has been added to the fold to assist the veteran coach.
The Bulls' squad in recent times have had glaring weaknesses, and it would be interesting to see if their new-look team has it in them to turn the fortunes around for the side.
Auction purchases and team combination
Over-reliance on the raiding pair of Rohit and Ajay Kumar proved to be the team's Achilles heel last term. However, the Bulls addressed that area in the auctions when they bought eight pure raiders in their side.
Raiders Harish Naik and Sumeet were re-signed, while Kashiling Adake's arrival was the most notable. The concern for the Bulls however will be Adake's form which has dropped in the previous campaigns. The captaincy and support of Rohit is likely help his case, but Adake who showed signs of his old past in flashes last season, will have to come good for the Bulls.
"In the last two years, we didn't have enough raiders. This season that problem is not there. We have 8 raiders and that allows us to be flexible with the choice of raiders. I would say raiding is our strength this time out," captain Rohit told Firstpost.
Naik who impressed at the fag end of the season will look to have a more pronounced impact this time out. His skipper backs him to do just that. "Harish and Sumit have improved significantly from last season. So we have 4-5 raiders ready to step out and play a very high level of kabaddi. It's an advantage for us," The Bulls skipper added.
The defence though doesn't inspire a great deal of confidence. Ashish Kumar will continue in the right cover role. Raju Lal Choudhary who was part of the Indian side at the Asian Games is expected to have the responsibility of replacing Ravinder Pahal at right corner. At left cover, Mahender Singh will look to continue his good work from last season that saw him claim 58 tackle points. At left corner though, coach Randhir will have to place faith on a relative newcomer with no established player available to him.
The Bulls have placed great faith on young players in the last few years, but that approach hasn't yielded them the desired results. In the auctions, the Bulls' purchases point to a similar approach. They bought just three players from category A and B — the categories containing the best and established players. 13 players signed belonged to the Category that comprises of young and inexperienced players.
Captain Rohit tries to look at it from a positive perspective, but he knows his task as the skipper is cut out. "It's good to have young players in your team. The energy levels are always high. The advantage with unknown players is that we always a have a surprise element. Teams can't plan against us," he said.
"Obviously, you need to work harder during preparation with younger players in the side, but we have worked very hard in pre-season and that gives me confidence," he added.
Training and preparation
The Bulls, like every year, have their training base in Tamil Nadu. The initial camp was held with an aim to improve fitness levels. One of their training sessions every day was held on the beach adjacent to their training complex.
Assistant coach BC Ramesh was exclusively working with the players, helping them sharpen their existing skills and also learning new ones.
"Ramesh sir has helped us individually in terms of skill. There has been a lot of focus on that aspect this season. He has advised me to add more dimensions to my raiding. I will now be using a few more moves this season, that I had stopped using in Pro Kabaddi. Similarly, he has worked with a lot of other players on improving their game," the 28-year-old revealed.
Can Bulls bring back their heydays?
Bengaluru Bulls are likely to be competitive throughout the season, but lack of experience could once again lead to their downfall at the business end of the season. Rohit may have more support in the raiding department, but lack of seasoned campaigners is likely to put him under a lot of pressure as a captain. All-rounder Jasmer Singh Gulia is a senior pro that the Bulls skipper could look for advice, but Gulia is unlikely to feature a lot on the mat after the all-rounder has been out of top-level action for a while.
Bengaluru Bulls' efforts to force themselves into title contention have fallen short in the last few seasons. The current team appears to be their best bet since season two, but even their best in recent times might not guarantee them a shot at playing the final, especially if it requires coming out of a highly competitive Zone B.
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Updated Date: Oct 02, 2018 17:12:51 IST