Interview with U Mumba Coach Bhaskaran Edachery: "We have a mix of both experience and youth"
The new season of Pro Kabaddi League kicks off on 30th January with the defending champions U Mumba’s match. Talking of U Mumba, they have had an excellent run in the ‘Pro Kabaddi League’ in both the seasons. In the first one, they ended up second, losing to Jaipur Pink Pathers in the finals and triumphing in the second season.
The Mumbai-based team is all geared up for the third season now and their coach Bhaskaran Edachery reiterated the squad’s mood in an interview with Sportskeeda.
Here are the excerpts:
How was the team’s pre-season preparation?
We’ve prepared well. Taking into account the previous editions, we have to maintain our level. We had a 20-day conditioning camp in Kerala which went well. We’re still training in Mumbai. We have to see to it that players don’t suffer from injuries. One of the plus points for us last season was that no one was seriously injured. When a player gets injured, he goes from 100% to 80% or even 60%. If that doesn’t happen, we can perform at a high level.
With the addition of Rakesh Kumar, did you have to tweak your strategies? And what about the completion for places in the first 7?
Yes. Definitely. We sensed an all-rounder was missing in our team. Since he as arrived, he has been very good for us. He has a very good relationship with the team now. We never really played with a permanent 7. We pre-plan for every game depending on the match. Sometimes, Rishank sits out. At times, Shabeer sits out and we introduced the new kids. We decide on the lineup depending on our form and the opponent.
Is motivation a factor? Considering U Mumba won the tournament just a few months back?
I don’t think this is a problem. Many of our players have been playing since a very long time. They’ve played at the Asian games. We have Arjuna Awardees too. So we have a mix of both experience and youth. The new guys get motivated looking at the experienced players. As a coach, my job is to place all the gems on the necklace. That’s all. We have to move in unity and like a team.
The performance has always been there. It’s just about adding the finishing touches to shine brighter. Every player wants to be associated with U Mumbai. Our management team is excellent. Ronnie Sir (owner of U Mumba) is like a big brother. He is another motivation for us. Our CEO, Supratik is not like a CEO. He trains with us and at times even plays Kabaddi with us. So there is this family environment which helps a lot. The atmosphere looks good.
You’ve been part of the game for decades now. What would you say are the key attributes to be a top Kabaddi player today?
Well, the game used to be played on mud. It was only recently that we shifted to playing on mats. This helps because we can play for a longer amount of time. Plus lesser injuries as well. When we played Kabaddi in my time, it almost looked like we had finished farming on the fields. Because we had mud and dirt all over us. Firstly it's hard work. This game is such. Lots of body contact. Imagine two objects crashing into each other at 100km/hr. It’s like that. Hence, injuries will always be around the corner.
Thousands of players get injured in the lower leagues and this prevents them from entering the top leagues like PKL. It’s all about working on the injuries from a very young age. A kabaddi player has to have good reaction abilities and an alert mind at all times.
Do you think the talented young substitutes in your squad have a chance to break into the first seven?
No, I didn't think so. We have 2 types of players in U Mumba. One group of high-level players and the other group just a level below them. There is no doubt; the youngsters have to work hard. In order to reach that level, it requires a lot of hours.
There is a healthy competition in the team. In fact last year, we held several tournaments in the city to scout for young talent. We picked up 2 players. But we had to drop them since we had very less time to work and train with them. 2 months is just not enough to transform into a high-level player. They definitely tried their best. We are looking to bring in more youngsters in the squad this year as well.
Which 2-3 players have impressed you the most in the PKL? Apart from the U Mumba players.
Well, it’s not fair to pick just 3 players. There are quite a few. There are some of them who previously did not have a platform to showcase their talent. The PKL gave them a stage to showcase their skills. Sandeep Narwal from Patna looks good. Rahul Chaudhari from the Telugu Titans.
Then there is this boy called Rohit from Delhi who is playing really well. People from Haryana and U.P are now playing more Kabaddi than ever. They carry with them cans filled with milk to drink. So they’re definitely building strength. If some of these guys can break through, then we won’t have any shortage of talented players in the PKL.