Interview with Bengal Warriors skipper Nilesh Shinde: "People look at us differently now"
After their lowly finish in the first season, Bengal Warriors have improved vastly as a side under skipper Nilesh Shinde and secured a semi final berth in the 3rd season. Shinde is a veteran in the sport of Kabaddi and has turned out regularly for the national side and was also a part of the side that won the Asian Games.
The team management, having seen the team grow under their captain decided to retain him ahead of the auctions in May, underlining the immense value that Nilesh Shinde brings to the table with his leadership apart from his skills of defending.
In an interview with Sportskeeda, the 35 year old opened up about his life, the game and also his association with Bengal Warriors.
Shinde, who has become a household name in Kolkata due to his association with the team in the past three years, hails from Ratnagiri in Maharashtra. The veteran defender currently lives in Thane, is married and has a kid as well. But thanks to Star Sports Pro Kabaddi, Shinde has also developed a close relation with the city of joy, a place which he has been visiting every year since 2014 as a part of Bengal Warriors unit.
Tell him what is it that catches his eye about the city and after a pause, he would point out what no one can escape about Kolkata – the colonial hangover that the city still carries. “You can see the shadow of British Raj still hanging over the city every time you visit it. That colonial charm makes it a very different city to be in.”
It was at the age of 14 that Shinde’s rendezvous with Kabaddi started and he credits it to his uncle, Suresh Salunkhe for introducing him to the game. Since then the 35-year-old has become a vital cog for all the teams he has been a part of. His biggest moment before Pro Kabaddi came when he won the gold in 2008 in the National Games.
The Bengal Warrior hasn’t looked back since then and it says something about him that in a league dominated by young legs, his experience is still highly valued, so much so that Shinde was handed leadership duties by Bengal Warriors.
Although, Pro Kabaddi happened pretty late in life for Shinde, it has surely changed his life as it has of so many Kabaddi players in the country. “People look at me differently now.”
But its not merely about the fame but also about the moolah that has flowed in after the league started a couple of years ago and Shinde acknowledges the change. “Thanks to the money from Pro Kabaddi League, we have now better training opportunities.”
And if numbers are anything to go by, the training is paying off brilliantly well. Shinde has been the lynchping of Bengal’s defence and has troubled many a raiders with his ankle hold, which he declares will remain his most potent weapon against opposition raiders even in the 4th season.
In 42 matches, the Bengal Warriors skipper has 76 successful tackles to his name.
The season 3 however also saw Shinde being taken off on a stretcher after a bid to tackle raider Rohit Chaudhari resulted in leaving him with an injured soft muscle tissue in his back. Remind the Bengal skipper of that and he flinches at the memory of it before going on to add, “It is tough recovering from an injury in Kabaddi. But thanks to Pro Kabaddi and the physios that it has brought with itself, recovery time has substantially decreased than before.
Although his team finished 4th in the last season, losing in semi finals to U Mumba and Puneri Paltan in the 3rd place playoff, the team showed a lot of spunk. Shinde would be hoping for an improved performance this time around from his team that has a number of new faces in it. But its that one face that’s the most threatening for opponents when making raids – that of Jang Kun Lee.
The captain picks out the Korean for special praise as he calls him an amazingly disciplined individual. “The squad is good and fit before the 4th season. We lacked a bit last time in the raiding department and have strengthened it this time around. The whole idea was to bring in a lot of variety in the team and i think the auctions allowed us to do that”, Shinde says.
When not busy with his Pro Kabaddi duties, Shinde can be found playing for Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) where he is employed as well. In his free time, Shinde loves playing with his kid and enjoys swimming and running.
Shinde also follows other sports and is a big fan of the Spanish football club Real Madrid and their talismanic striker Cristiano Ronaldo. A relaxed Shinde will be crucial to Bengal Warriors title chances this season and the defender will hope to inspire his team to win it in their 4th attempt.