Hyderabad: After spending years playing kabaddi together for the Indian national team and in the Pro Kabbadi League, Anup Kumar and Rakesh Kumar made their coaching debuts against each other on Monday. Rakesh emerged victorious as his Haryana Steelers side beat Puneri Paltan 34-24. Steelers banked on Naveen Kumar’s raids as the youngster notched up 14 points on the night while Pawan Kadian’s Super 10 went in vain for Pune.
Rakesh cut a happy figure in the post-match press conference after a winning start to his coaching career as he quipped about getting adjusted to life outside the mat.
“It feels good to get your first win as a coach, but it's a different feeling for sure. The assistant scorer who was sitting in our dugout was telling me, 'Sir please sit there quietly.' But I couldn't help it as it has been a habit since my playing days to talk constantly with the players!” the Nizampur native said.
Fortunately for the 37-year-old, in veteran Dharmaraj Cheralathan, the Steelers had an experienced head on the mat which helped Rakesh to no end. The 44-year-old defender was constantly speaking with his teammates while also giving valuable tips to the likes of Naveen and the young raider Selvamani. Even though Cheralathan couldn’t contribute with points, Rakesh hailed his captain’s impact in getting the win.
“I don't care more if Cherla plays well or not. For me, his job is to take care of and control the team. All the guys are new, so if he gets out it becomes difficult to control them. They can't help themselves from going into advanced tackles. As a coach, I understand that as even we did that when we were young. So Cherlatan's job is to control the players and he did that really well tonight,” Rakesh said.
Anup Kumar, on the other hand, was unhappy with his team’s overall performance and also rued the absence of raider Nitin Tomar. “Today both defence and attack didn't play well. No one can bear to lose - be it a player or a coach."
“Nitin Tomar is our most-important player. Without him, the morale of the other players goes down. The sooner Nitin comes into the team, the better for us,” the Pune coach said.
Despite losing, Anup defended the decision to back young players in season seven and said, “The more youngsters you have, the more benefits you get. Because senior players are more prone to injuries and can't play for long. Older players can't maintain themselves for longer but young players can,” while adding that he would work to iron out their flaws as the season progresses.
Updated Date: Jul 23, 2019 10:52:30 IST