"I will win my place back in the Indian team," says star all-rounder Manjeet Chhillar
2017 was not the best of years for one of India's biggest kabaddi icons Manjeet Chhillar, who had an injury-blighted Pro Kabaddi League campaign with the Jaipur Pink Panthers in Season 5. The star all-rounder was bought for Rs 75.50 lakhs by the inaugural champions at the player auction but only made 15 appearances in the campaign, notching up just a total of 52 points - a disappointing output by Chhillar's extraordinary standards.
His team won just eight out of their 22 league matches in the campaign, with big names like Selvamani K and Jasvir Singh also missing out on large parts of the action due to injury and the team having to play with a set of untried youngsters. With his lack of form and fitness woes, Chhillar was also not part of the Indian lineup that won gold at the Asian Championships in November.
However, with the new year having rolled in, he is back to full fitness and is hungry to get his place back in the national side. The 31-year-old is part of the star-studded Haryana side at the ongoing Senior National Championships and has his eyes set on the left cover position in the Indian starting lineup.
He spoke exclusively to Sportskeeda on the sidelines of the competition about his comeback and his previous year. Here are a few excerpts!
Looking back at the year gone by, how would you say 2017 went for you?
It was not the best of years for me and I am disappointed with the way things played out in the PKL. I wanted to do my best for the team but the injury came at the wrong time.
Also, our key players like Jasvir and Selva (Selvamani) were injured as well, which is why the team could not perform to its best capability.
How is your fitness now? Have you recovered fully?
Yes, I am completely fit now and raring to go. Earlier, I was worried about having a surgery done but thankfully, the injury has healed naturally.
And does that mean you will resume your raiding duties as well?
I am fit enough to raid now but whether I will go for raids or not will depend on the team's requirement. We have a strong attack with Anup (Kumar), Sandeep (Narwal), Rajesh (Narwal) and Vinod (Kumar), so I'll be focussing more on the defensive side.
India were dominant throughout the Asian Championship and did not look in trouble even once. How confident are you about your comeback?
I am fully ready to give my all and make my comeback in the Indian team. It was disappointing to miss out on the Championships but I am confident that I will earn my place back in the team.
The Indian team has many raiders but in the left cover position, I feel there is lesser competition. The players who played there in Iran are more of raiders than defenders. So, I hope I can win my place back with my performance in the Nationals and upcoming tournaments.
The Asian Games are coming up and my aim is to win gold for India in Indonesia!
What are your views on the way the National Championships have been organized this time? Do you think with the PKL, this tournament's importance has gone down?
The Nationals have always been well organized and with the sport's growing popularity, this time the arrangements have been very good.
I don't think they should be compared with the PKL. Yeh apni jagah, PKL apni jagah (Both should stay in their respective places). The national team is selected on the basis of the Nationals performance and prospective employers also give jobs from the Nationals performance only.
So, I think the Nationals are as relevant as ever if not more!