Senior National Kabaddi Championship: Banani Saha's Railways and their never-ending hunger for titles

Railways women's kabaddi team wrote history as they clinched the 2020 National Senior Championship title. They have lost only the title only once in tournament's 36 year old history. Here is how they did it.

Shubham Pandey March 07, 2020 10:35:09 IST
Senior National Kabaddi Championship: Banani Saha's Railways and their never-ending hunger for titles
  • Indian Railways women's kabaddi team has been winning all the nationals, barring one in 2018, since 1984.

  • The minute the players join Railways women's kabaddi team, they know they are not just becoming a part of a kabaddi team but rather a part of a legacy.

  • The reason for such a massive success for the current team, as per Saha, is the co-ordination, which comes thanks to series of camps in one year cycle.

Jaipur: There it is. One more. One more title added in Indian Railways women's kabaddi team's cabinet. This team has been winning all the nationals since 1984, barring one in 2018. The minute the players join Railways women's kabaddi team, they know they are not just becoming a part of a kabaddi team but rather a part of a legacy, which is 36 years old. Year after year, nationals after nationals, Railways have produced champions and there were a few more at the Poornima University in Jaipur after the conclusion of the summit clash between Railways and Himachal Pradesh, which the former won 40-34.

The smiles, jubilations and celebrations that followed after the win, could have looked enforced as for such a champion team, one more national title should have been very routine. However, any such notion vanishes when you look at Banani Saha, the team's coach being lifted by her players. It means as special and as important as the first title. For the legacy goes on.

Senior National Kabaddi Championship Banani Sahas Railways and their neverending hunger for titles

Railways have lost just one nationals since tournament's inception in 1984.

And this hunger to win for this Railways outfit surely comes from their coach Saha.

Saha, who has played previously for Railways and now coaches the team for last few years, revealed her strong side after the match when she said, "more the journalists write me off, the more I want to win," remembering an old post by a journalist on Facebook. She reminds herself about all such reviews and feedbacks when she begins a tournament, a journey to another title. When Railways lost the 2018 edition to Maharashtra, Saha could not wait for the next edition to arrive because the pride of her team was dented and she wanted it back. Railways went on to win the 2019 title.

So, in 2020, the team wanted to make sure that they were back on track to their routine, that is to win the nationals, and not let people write them off again.

This year, they had a difficult start, almost going down to Maharashtra in the first match. But that was the wake up call the team needed. From thereon, they steamrolled anyone who came on their way to the final, before clashing with Himachal Pradesh, who Saha herself believes was the second best side in the tournament. Those who saw the final would want to believe her as well.

"Yes, we had a bad start as our defence failed us but that we made sure the mistakes were not repeated. I knew we had the raiders, and defence to win," said Saha.

Himachal Pradesh came all guns blazing against Railways in the final. With just one point lead at the half time, one could see the team panicking as they discussed strategies amid many opinions floating from fans and management from the back to the team.

Senior National Kabaddi Championship Banani Sahas Railways and their neverending hunger for titles

Railways senior women's kabaddi coach Banani Saha. Shubham Pandey

Saha said the team was not over-confident after convincingly beating almost every other team in their run to the final, but they did lose focus at the start. Saha gave a dressing down to the team in an animated way, almost reminding them of the the team's legacy, but without mentioning it. Chaudhary and Co nodded in positive, listening to their coach and came back strongly to win the match with a difference of six points.

"At the half time, I told them our raiding was still good and it was our defence which was failing us again," said Saha, who must have been reminded of the first game against Maharashtra where the concerns were the same.

"I told them, even if lose one or two points in defence, it was alright. Even if we played with five players, we were fine as our raiders were doing a fine job. That was our strategy," said Saha.

That order wad followed. Defence went tight and raiders continued to shine. Especially Sonal Shingate, who finished with 13 raiding points and most of them were bonuses.

The reason for such a massive success for the current team, as per Saha, is the co-ordination, which comes thanks to series of camps in one year cycle.

"We do (multiple) camps in one year, usually from 21 days to one month. This helps our co-ordination and combination. Co-ordination and combination is what kabaddi is all about and it shows in our results," said Saha.

The Railways team will be back next year and with them Saha as well, with a new vigour, with a new challenge and with same Facebook post in her memory, which reminds her that someone again needs to be written off.

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