In season 3 of the Pro Kabaddi League, the Puneri Paltan roped in talented cover defender Surjeet Singh, who was set to partner Manjeet Chhillar in the defensive unit. The former enjoyed a terrific run that year and on the back of his 48 tackle points from just 12 games, he was fast-tracked into the Indian Kabaddi World Cup team.
On the back of a fabulous show in national colours, as Surjeet played a vital part in India's World Cup triumph, U Mumba roped in the ace defender. Yet, his break came in season 5 as he was signed up by the Bengal Warriors for a record sum of ₹73 lakh.
Under Surjeet's captaincy, the Warriors topped the 'Zone B' table while in season 6, they finished second on the table. Surjeet was the star performer for his side as he picked up a total of 130 points from 47 matches but was released from the squad ahead of the PKL 7 auctions.
Undoubtedly, Surjeet Singh was one of the most sought after names in the auction as he was snapped up by the Puneri Paltan for a sum of ₹56 lakh and owing to his fantastic credentials throughout his career, was rightly handed the responsibility of leading the side which boasted of some exciting names.
Surjeet was returning to the Paltan after a season-long stint in PKL 3 and for this season, he was pipped to form a potent partnership with compatriot Girish Ernak, while Shubham Shinde was an exciting prospect in the right corner.
However, since the beginning of the season, the absence of Nitin Tomar from the raiding unit has dented the Puneri Paltan's campaign. They have not yet found their rhythm, which has seen them crash to a string of losses. However, with a whole lot of matches to come, all is not lost.
Sportskeeda caught up with Puneri Paltan's skipper Surjeet Singh in an exclusive chat as the ace cover defender shed light on the ongoing season, the responsibility of captaincy on his shoulders and Anup Kumar's influence on the team.
Q. How was your preparation in the leadup to the season?
We had a rigorous routine in the pre-season camp, where, in the mornings, we concentrated on our fitness and evenings were focused on kabaddi. Every member of the team made sure that we help each other to improve our skills and perform better. We were focusing on improving our strength and stamina for which we indulged in a combination of different exercises like agility ladder, battle ropes, sprints, push-ups, etc.
Kabaddi is also about having strong reflexes and concentration for which it is important to build mental strength and for that, we had Yoga sessions. As far as our team’s kabaddi skills are concerned, we had a coach like Anup Sir whose expertise on the game has helped us tremendously as a team.
Q. Nitin Tomar's absence is undeniably a big thorn in your plans. What was the message passed on to the likes of Manjeet and Pawan before the matches?
Manjeet and Pawan are extremely talented players. As a captain, my only message to them was to not be under any kind of stress or pressure of performance. I wanted them to be confident in their abilities. I told them to give their all to the game and play passionately. As far as Nitin’s absence is concerned, we just wanted him to rest so that he can perform ahead.
Q. In the previous seasons, you were a part of Bengal Warriors and BC Ramesh was your coach. This season you have Anup Kumar as your coach, is there any particular difference or similarity in their coaching styles?
Every coach has a distinct style and methods. Their coaching techniques are different. It is good that we get to train and learn from so many experienced coaches.
Anup Sir is like an elder brother to us. He helps us with tactics and our mistakes and guides us to improve our game. Puneri Paltan is extremely fortunate to have a coach like Anup Kumar.
Q. What do you feel about the way Pawan Kadian has been leading the raiding unit for this season?
Despite the stressful situation that we were in, I think Pawan’s performances have been laudable. He has put his best foot forward and has done everything in his might to put across an impeccable performance. With the kind of potential he has, we are very happy that he is a part of Puneri Paltan.
Q. The defensive unit looked a bit shoddy in its approach against the Steelers. What will be the key for you to get back to winning ways?
We have worked on both our raiding and defending units based on a thorough analysis of our previous performances. I feel the only key to success is hard work and we are giving 100%. We are going that extra mile and with our efforts, we will put up a power-packed show in the upcoming matches.
Q. How much of an influence has Anup Kumar's style had on the way you portray your style on the mat?
To have someone like Anup Kumar to support us and guide us every step of the way is incredible. He is India’s kabaddi superstar and a raider par excellence, and to learn the essentials of the sport from him is a great opportunity for us. His understanding and knowledge of the sport is so vast, and his inputs have helped me improve my game tremendously.
Q. As a captain, how do you pull yourself and the team's morale up after a string of losses?
This is just the beginning of the league, and we have the entire season ahead of us. As a game, defeats are a part and parcel of sports. Not just me, but as a team, we have taken it in our stride and are further motivated to do better. I am sure that in the coming matches, we will excel.