At the onset of the fifth season of the Star Sports Vivo Pro Kabaddi, two-time finalists and Season 2 winners U Mumba are sweating it out in Dehradun at their pre-season camp. With a new team and a group of talented youngsters at the helm, Coach E. Bhaskaran who has been a constant in the team, speaks about the advantages and challenges for U Mumba during the upcoming season that will see four new teams contending for the trophy this year. Excerpts below:
On being one of the stronger teams in the league:
We will definitely benefit from being amongst the most successful teams in the league. U Mumba is known for its player selection, training, team management and overall functioning. We have developed a reputation of being able to turn lesser known players into stars through constant encouragement and strong performances, something that was evident right from the beginning of the league. Because of all this, opponents look at us differently- we are seen as a threat. There is automatic pressure on them to try and beat us.
On Anup Kumar as Captain
Anup has led the team ever since U Mumba came into existence.. He has a very different reputation among the teams and players- he is an iconic figure in international Kabaddi now. His nickname also ‘Captain Cool’ also describes how well he copes with pressure and is calm and collective in even the most stressful of situations on the mat. He leads the team exceedingly well. Other than that, he has also been a great raider through the seasons which is an added advantage for us. Having a good captain is very important especially when the players keep changing due to auctions. Given his experience, he plays a key role in grooming the youngsters in our side as well. The Captain and coach coordination which is a key factor in any team sport is very good between Anup and which I feel is very important in the overall dynamic of things.
On player fitness during the extended season
Yes, the season is longer but the good thing is that the recovery period after each match has also significantly increased so it works well. There is time to recover and then concentrate on training again.
Our 20-day fitness camp held in Dehradun was precisely for this reason too. We wanted to ensure that the players are physically fit to go through this long season. Choosing a high altitude destination was also to build their stamina and increase endurance for the league.
On why raiders are crucial to the team
I feel every very team this season has good raiders, including us. We worked on a strategy and managed to achieve exactly what we wanted in the auction. We have 4 strong raiders who will allow the defence to take risks and go for the kill during each of the opponent’s raid. The morale of the defence is always high when the raiders are strong.
On the new players
From the 136 players that were a part of the New Young Players’ (NYP) Camp this year, the 3 we selected are within the top 20. We chose defenders because we always need back up for defence, especially for such a long season. They are very energetic, have played in the junior, senior nationals as well as the Federation Cup, so come with some experience under their belt.
Barring Anup and Shabeer, all the remaining players are new to the team. Joginder and Suresh come with a lot of experience. Kuldeep is an excellent all-rounder who can destroy a raider. Hadi as a corner is also very strong. So I can’t really comment on who is the strongest as each of them come with a strong, different skill set.
On changes in training
Conducting a fitness camp Dehradun was one of the first key changes in training this season. The next camp (also in Dehradun) will focus on player to player marking with emphasis on team coordination and technique. Both the camps are aimed at preparing the team for the longer season.