Kabaddi Masters Dubai 2018: 'Forget you are PKL superstars, you are playing for the nation,' Indian coach Srinivas Reddy to his players
Since the inception of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), the sport has seen a massive upsurge in terms of popularity. The league's success along with India's triumph at the Kabaddi World Cup made the Indian kabaddi players household names and now, there an unprecedented buzz to every international kabaddi tournament in which India takes part.
The buzz ahead of the inaugural edition of the Kabaddi Masters 2018 (which can be looked upon as the Champions Trophy of cricket with only the best of the nations fighting for the trophy) has been no different.
Speaking to Sportskeeda, newly-appointed Indian coach, Srinivas Reddy reveals that the preparation has been good and the team is ready though he has not had much time with the team having being appointed as coach only a few weeks back. There were three phases of preparation, each focusing on one aspect of the game.
"In the first phase of preparation, we focused on fitness. When the player is fit, only then will he be able to perform well in tournaments. In camps, you don't get much opportunity to analyse everything. The best thing to do is to identify the best skills of each of the players and polish them further," says Reddy.
"Later on, in the second phase, the focus shifted to game planning. And now we are in the third phase, which is analysing your opponent and strategising accordingly. We have worked extensively on team combination and planning," he adds.
The tournament will see Iran, Korea, Pakistan, Argentina, Kenya and India battling it out on the mat. Alongside India, Iran is considered as a likely contender for the top prize. However, Iran sprang up few surprises as they omitted the likes of Fazel Atrachali and Abozar Mighani from their squad.
The Indian coach though feels that the second string squad might pose a few problems for India and they simply cannot be undermined.
"At first we were preparing with this in mind that Iran will send their first team. When we came here, we got to know it's not the first team. However, this doesn't mean they are weak. The new players may perform well, you can't write them off. We can't undermine opposition just be looking at their faces. So, we will go in with 100%, no half measures," says Reddy.
When asked how he intends to plan strategies against the unknown Iranian side, the Telangana man concedes that it is a difficult job and in a way, it is good that the Indians have not been drawn alongside them.
"It is tough to plan strategies against unknown opponents. So, it's a good thing that we are not grouped with Iran. They will be playing a few matches in their group and we will have to watch closely. Then we can analyse their game from the video footage and decide on what tactics to adopt," he reveals.
The Indian team boasts of a number of superstars like Ajay Thakur, Monu Goyat, Deepak Hooda, Manjeet Chhillar, Surender Nada, Rahul Chaudhari, Pardeep Narwal, Rohit Kumar and Rishank Devadiga. All of them have achieved stardom, courtesy of the Pro Kabaddi League.
It is a tough task to manage a team if it has so many superstars. Sometimes ego comes between the players and consequently, the team chemistry takes a hit. However, right at the beginning, Reddy made it clear to his players that in the national team, no one was special.
"When I met the players for the first time, I told them, 'Forget that you are a superstar (in PKL). Now you are playing for your nation. Aap desh ke liye khel rahe ho. Let's just focus on winning the gold medal for the country'," Reddy, who had previously coached the Australian and Korean national teams, says.
"For me, all the 14 players are equal. There are no seniors, juniors...I talk to everyone in the same way, I treat everyone in the same way...The members of the team have no ego problems. They know they are not playing in PKL, they are playing for India. I have made it clear to the boys that there are no guaranteed places in the team. Anyone might play, anyone might be benched," he goes on to add.
India start the campaign against neighbours Pakistan on Friday, 22nd June, 2018. An Indo-Pak clash in any sport is bound to see a few tempers flaring, a little tension arising and Kabaddi is no exception. Now, how does one prepare mentally for such matches?
Just before heading off, Coach Reddy reveals what advice he gave to the boys, "Most of these players have already played against Pakistan. But you have to prepare mentally. I tell the boys, 'Forget it's Pakistan, look at them just any other opponents. Give your best and jeet ke aana (come back with a win).'"