Pro Kabaddi League 2018: For Jaipur Pink Panthers' Anup Kumar, duty over sentiment as U Mumba reunion looms
Firstpost caught up with Anup Kumar, the new Jaipur Pink Panthers captain and tried to extract what's going on in the coolest head in kabaddi ahead of what could be an emotional evening for the former U Mumba skipper.
Pro Kabaddi with its ever-changing dynamics is not a breeding ground for loyalty. Hence, the rare tales of prolonged association of any form stand out. In fact, it's lauded and even glorified.
In this rather small world of kabaddi, few love affairs have garnered more attention than one between U Mumba and Anup Kumar, their captain for five years.
However, the association came to an end ahead of season six. Jaipur Pink Panthers swooped for Anup Kumar in the auctions after U Mumba decided to not retain their legendary skipper. Mumbai's loss was Jaipur's gain as the 2014 champions placed him at the forefront of their own revolution.
Anup was at the heart of the great U Mumba side of the first three seasons. The team saw sweeping success and agonising failures in equal measure, but there was always a constant. Attitude.
U Mumba's ruthless, yet spirited DNA draws its bases from Anup, an aggressive and uncompromising raider, but a calm and composed leader.
The Anup-U Mumba split raised eyebrows, but all good things come to an end. Despite the overbearing rationale behind the split, that's the best way to look at it.
But life moves on. U Mumba and Anup have gone their own separate ways, but as fate, or perhaps the organisers' will to milk the sentiments that exist after the split, would have it, Anup is all set to make his debut for his new franchise Jaipur Pink Panthers on Wednesday against former team U Mumba.
Firstpost caught up with the new Jaipur Pink Panthers captain and tried to extract what's going on in the coolest head in kabaddi ahead of what could be an emotional evening for the former U Mumba skipper.
Here are the Excerpts.
Anup, you have joined Jaipur Pink Panthers? How has your time been there so far?
I’m delighted to be with Jaipur Pink Panthers. Talking about the management, it’s very supportive. We are provided with everything that we need.
Our owner Abhishek Bachchan takes great care of us. In our 40 day camp, he has personally met us three times. It shows his commitment towards the team. He asks each player every detail about their well-being. He doesn’t differentiate between junior or senior players and pays equal attention to every player. This is very special about the franchise.
Anup, you are set to make your debut for Jaipur Pink Panthers, and it doesn't get any bigger with that match against U Mumba. What is going on in your mind?
The feeling is very good. For me, it’s a new jersey, a new match, and it’s also against U Mumba, where I spent five seasons. I’m not very excited, but I am getting the kind of feeling that I get before a big game. It’s good to have this before a big game.
For me, it’s important to be able to think well during the game. We have prepared a strategy against U Mumba, and our attempt will be to execute it effectively.
Would it feel strange to see the U Mumba team on the other side of the mat?
It feels a bit strange off the mat, but once you step on to that mat, all that feeling disappears. Once you are in, all you think about is your team, your jersey. Outside it, I do feel that U Mumba is my team, I have played there for five years. It’s a team that’s given me the fame that I have today. But on the ground, there’s no U Mumba for me.
What are your fondest memories in a U Mumba shirt?
The best memory is obviously the second season when we had won the trophy. It will always remain memorable for me. I played the first season of Pro Kabaddi in that U Mumba shirt and won the Most Valuable Player. That shirt has given me a lot. I will always have that in mind.
Were you upset after U Mumba decided to not retain you?
Yes, I felt a bit disappointed. When you play for a team for five years, and then they chose to not retain you, you feel that you should have been part of the team. Somewhere I feel I should have been a part of U Mumba.
What’s your assessment of the first U Mumba team without you?
They have a very good team. The way they played the first game shows their quality. Siddharth Desai, their raider, is a real threat. His performance in the last game was outstanding. He got tackled just twice in the entire match. We have planned a way to tackle him. (Dharmaraj) Cheralathan is a very experienced defender. Fazel is a very strong defender. So both their raiding and defence department is strong. We will have to be very careful against this side.
Fazel Atrachali, who's the new U Mumba captain, joined the team that you captained it in season two. How far has he come from there and how do you see him as a captain?
Fazel has improved a lot. He is not been given captaincy just for the sake of it. He didn’t get Rs 1 crore in the auction without any reason. He has improved vastly since the second season when he was in U Mumba. And has kept improving every year. He is U Mumba captain due to his hard work.
Jaipur and Mumbai have produced some classics. Which is the most memorable match you have been part of?
All the games. They were all so close and exciting. My performances in these games were always good. Abhishek Bachchan sometimes reminds me that whenever we have lost to U Mumba, it has been because of me. Now my aim would be to play well in these games for Jaipur so that he never complains.
Talking of close games, you always seem to keep your cool. Do you ever feel pressure?
You feel the pressure when the opponent takes a considerable lead. At that time you think that any more mistakes and the lead will be too big to recover. However, I never take a lot of pressure on the mat. I keep my cool and think a lot while playing. What is the weakness in the opponent’s defence? What can our defence do to tackle a raider? I try to plan this in detail. On most occasions my decisions are right, so I don’t take much pressure.
What do you tell yourself when there's pressure? How do you deal with that situation?
I always tell myself and also the other players that we must not think about whom we are facing. We must step on to that mat thinking that we are all heroes. We have to play like a hero, even if it means feeling we are better than our opponents. We must believe what we do is the best. That’s how I think and that’s what I say to the players.
How is the atmosphere in your hometown Palra when you are playing in PKL?
Everyone is very excited. Not just in Palra, but in the entire district, Pro Kabaddi is very popular because of me. Lots of people watch it on TV. I am getting so many phone calls from people asking about the match, the team, about my preparation They also want to know how’s the U Mumba side without me.
Since you were with U Mumba for five years, there must be many U Mumba fans there. Whom will they support tonight? Jaipur or Mumbai?
They are all my fans. All my friends and those in my friend circle are my fans. They watch kabaddi just for me. I don’t think it matters for them whether I play for U Mumba or Jaipur Pink Panthers. They want to watch me play and do well. So they will support me irrespective of the team I play.
What do you aim to achieve this season?
Jaipur have shown great faith in me by purchasing me in the auction. I feel it's my duty to work harder to be able to perform for them. Hence I have been doing a lot of work out in the gym so that I can perform better for myself and for Jaipur Pink Panthers.