Bengal Warriors took their own sweet time to warm up to the Pro Kabaddi League. It wasn't until the third coming of the franchise-based league that team from West Bengal could genuinely compete. After struggling to get away from the foot of the table in the first two seasons, the Warriors made their first ever playoffs appearance in 2016.
Even though the Warriors ran out of fuel by the time the semi-finals came along, the drastic improvement was a welcome shift from the mediocrity of the past. It still took the Warriors two more seasons to build a side that could be considered as serious challengers. But like every other team that entered the playoffs in season five, Warriors had to be content with being second fiddle to Pardeep Narwal's raiding extraordinaire.
The Warriors though had little qualms in allowing coach Jagdish Kumble to continue his good work at the helm, and thus enable him to find the final jigsaw in Bengal Warriors' victory puzzle.
Auction purchases and team combination
Bengal Warriors retained captain Surjeet Singh and star raider, Maninder Singh, ahead of the auctions and made a conscious effort to re-sign majority of their old players.
Korean captain Jang Kun Lee and Ran Singh were brought back using the Final Bid Match card, while Ameares Mondal, Ravindra Kumawat and most importantly, Shrikanth Tewthia were re-purchased during auctions. A well-laid out strategy helped Kumble have the core of last year's squad back.
However, there were a few corners that needed to be smoothened. "I felt the left side of the defence was a bit weak. So our main aim was to buy a left cover. We were able to buy Ziaur Rahman, the Bangladeshi player, and Vijin Thangadurai who can play in both cover positions," Kumble told Firstpost.
With Maninder and Jang back, all that the Warriors needed to do was add depth. The purchases of Mahesh Goud and Rakesh Narwal adequately beefed up the raiding side of the team.
Apart from the experienced heads, the Warriors have a plethora of youngsters. Coach Kumble highlights all-rounder Ravindra Kumavat and raider Amit Kumar from the Services as the men to watch out for from his side.
Rahman and Surjeet are likely to take up the cover spots. Ran Singh and Shrikanth Tewthia will renew their partnership from last year. In the raiding side, the responsibility of the third raider will be shared by Goud and Narwal.
Kumble will be delighted with regaining the core of his squad from last season despite it getting dismantled ahead of the auctions. The Warriors think tank deserves a lot of credit for pulling off this coup. The continuity in the squad will be a huge advantage for the Warriors as they bid to reach their first ever final.
Training and preparation
Coach Kumble is a meticulous planner. The work he put in to get his team at the peak of their fitness levels played a big part in the Warriors winning Zone B.
Ahead of season six, Kumble's approach has been no different. The Kolkata outfit held a week-long camp in Bengaluru immediately after the auction. The aim of the camp was to gauge the fitness levels of their players. Before the players returned for the second camp a month later, the physical trainers had prepared a training and fitness regime for each individual to get the entire squad on a similar fitness level.
"We have excessively focused on the fitness of the players. Till mid-August, we gave priority to fitness building and that was the main aspect of our training for over a month. We only started working on skills and strategy in the last four weeks," Kumble revealed.
"Our physios have given each player separate workouts. Each player has their own needs. It is very important in a long competition like Pro Kabaddi to be at the peak fitness levels when the league begins," he added.
Are Warriors the favourites?
Even coach Kumble is not keen to throw his hat in the ring when it comes to calling out the pre-tournament favourites, but he admits that nothing less than the trophy would satisfy his team.
"We have a good team. However, it is difficult to predict which team will come out on top. Maybe after 2-3 weeks, we will get a fair idea. We missed the final despite getting two opportunities to qualify, so this time we don't want to make any mistakes. Winning the title is our objective," said Kumble, an Asian Games gold medalist in 2002.
The Warriors have slowly built a squad that few in the league can claim to match in terms of quality, experience and depth. It may have taken longer to come, but the Kolkata outfit is certainly in elite company and few would be debating their favourites tag.
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Updated Date: Oct 03, 2018 16:13:41 IST