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Interview with Telugu Titans captain Rahul Chaudhari: "We are a little thin on attacking resources this season"

In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, Rahul Chaudhari talks about his injured shoulder, leading the side and much more.

Rahul Chaudhari
Rahul Chaudhari in action against U Mumba

Pain is endemic to sport. Success in sport only comes to those who can embrace pain and travel beyond its constricting influence. Rahul Chaudhari, the Telugu Titans captain has been playing a star role for his team in Pro Kabaddi season 4 despite a nearly incapacitated right shoulder.

The marquee Telugu Titans star has been leading from the front for the new look Hyderabad side. The owner and coach of the Titans have made some sound defensive investments during the auction window, but injuries to their key raiders have left the Titans reeling in the early phase of Season IV.

The Titans have lost four of their first six matches, most of them narrow losses due to their inability to press their advantage home in the final minutes. Sukesh Hegde has barely shown up so far and Rahul has been forced to bear the brunt of the attacking work despite his heavily strapped shoulder.

It is truly incredible that Rahul has 46 raid points so far this season, playing at 70% of his true ability as a raider. He has been forced to raid on his left foot – as much as he is comfortable doing so, he is far more potent when he is able to turn freely as he traverses the mat from one side to the other.

“The support staff have been good to me,” said Rahul in an exclusive conversation with Sportskeeda. “I have been doing some work on the shoulder before and after matches. I have to be careful because I cannot real stretch my right arm and take load on the muscles.

“We are a little thin on attacking resources this season and the injuries to Sukesh aren’t really helping the team. As the captain, I need to take responsibility and though there is constant discomfort, it has been important for me to stand with the boys,” explained Rahul.

The good thing for the Titans has been the form of Nilesh Salunke, who has taken to his role as the second raider with aplomb. Unfortunately, though, the investment in Mohammad Maghsoudlou isn’t paying off yet. The coach and management have been candid in admitting that communication is an issue.

Plans change rapidly in a game of Kabaddi. Irrespective of preparations in the lead up to a contest and guidance on the bench, it is important for a player to adapt quickly to the dynamics in play on the mat and adapt accordingly. The team has struggled to find the means to integrate the Iranian into their setup.

All of this has meant additional responsibility on Rahul. At just 22, the young man from Binjor in Uttar Pradesh has clearly come a long way. There is a natural sense of leadership in his thought process and he hasn’t hesitated to place the team above himself.

In the past, Rahul was happy to pass on the captain’s band to Deepak Hooda when he was struggling for form. Even this season, he hasn’t hesitated to take the back seat, when the management has felt the need for it.

Lack of experience has hurt us – Jasmer Singh Gulia

In the home leg that concluded last week, Rahul was faced with the challenge of managing the hyperactive energies of Sandeep Narwal. When the young all-rounder’s enthusiasm was proving counter-productive, he has been happy to pass on the responsibility of guiding the team to senior defender Jasmer Singh Gulia.

The move underlines Rahul’s supreme self-confidence in his own abilities and a keen understanding of the needs of his team. It will not be long before he dons national colours to pursue his aspirations for a gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games.

Jasmer has embraced his role as a key defender for the team, bringing his experience to bear on an otherwise young and exuberant setup. “We are thin on attack, so we need to be very sharp with our defensive plans,’ said Jasmer.

“Unfortunately, the raw aggression of our boys and lack of experience has resulted in some unnecessary losses for the team. We have identified the areas of improvement.

“I am asking the players to be patient and stick to our plans. The final five minutes are a crucial phase of play and we are working to keep things tight. We have also discussed specific roles for our players, so they enter the match with a clear mind,” added Jasmer.

“We believe that we can make a recovery from here and get some good results on the road,” assured an optimistic Gulia, who was a gold medalist at the Guangzhou edition of the Asian Games in 2010.

If their final home match against U Mumba is any indication, it does seem that the Titans have learnt from their early mistakes. The team also managed Rahul well, substituting him when they built up a substantial lead against Mumbai on Wednesday. After early hiccups, the team seems to have finally found their balance. We saw the effect of that in their clinical performance against the Patna Pirates in their last match.

The team will hope though that Rahul and Sukesh can return to full fitness and help the team recover from a poor start. The format of the league offers plenty of hope for the Titans, with plenty still to be played. The game against the Bengaluru Bulls is set to be a thrilling ride tonight.

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