Pro Kabaddi 2016 Season 4: Puneri Paltan's Ajay Thakur confident of reaching the final
After a nail-biting tie against the Bengal Warriors that kicked off the campaign for Puneri Paltan in the second half of the Star Sports Pro Kabaddi Season 4, it was the players from Pune who returned the happier bunch. Although they looked the favorites before the start of the match, the men in orange were blindsided by a vicious attack by Nitin Madne and Jang-Kun Lee in the first half.
However, they saw it off and came back in the second half to tie the match. The team clung on to its top four position despite the tie and looked more than optimistic about their chances in the tournament in the media interaction that followed the match.
Ajay Thakur and Joginder Narwal, who had earlier worn the colours of Bulls in previous seasons, found themselves in a familiar territory at Sree Kanteerava Stadium, albeit wearing the Pune jersey this time around in season 4. The tall Ajay Thakur expressed his pleasure to return to Bangalore.
“It feels great to be back in Bangalore. This used to be our home ground as I represented the Bulls in the first 2 seasons while my brother, Jogi, joined me in the second edition. He couldn’t play in the third season due to injury and now we are back together in the fourth season with the Puneri Paltan. So it feels great to be back playing with him.”
Joginder joined in the conversation about his former home crowd, “Bangalore’s crowd gave us a lot of love in all the seasons and I am sure even in the upcoming seasons, they will continue showering us with love”
Thakur, who hails from Himachal Pradesh, added a few more words of appreciation. “We don’t feel like we left Bengaluru despite being in Puneri Paltan. Whenever we meet anyone outside, we can feel the love and they greet us warmly. Not only Bangalore but Karnataka as a whole has a brilliant Kabaddi culture and we could see the fans’ knowledge of the game even before the Pro Kabaddi started,” he quipped.
“We will reach the final”
The conversation inevitably moved to the match though, which also saw the Paltan captain Manjeet Chillar suffer an injury five minutes before the final whistle. Thakur refuted any claims that Manjeet’s injury derailed the Paltan in the match.
“His injury was a major factor. We had the match in our hands despite Manjeet’s injury. But, we made a few errors and let the lead slip. If we would have been more alert, we would have definitely got the win vs Bengal Warriors. The main reason behind the draw was getting caught in super tackles time and again.”
Deepak Niwas Hooda, who has been a revelation for the Paltan this season, impressed against Bengal as well and his teammates spilled the beans on what has got the tall raider going this season. “Our captain and the entire team told Deepak to believe in himself and go for raids, even if they were to do or die raids. The confidence he got helped him come out on top in each of his raids,” revealed the Puneri Paltan raider.
It was then the turn of Joginder Narwal to shower some praise on Ajay Thakur who put up a superlative exhibition of all-round brilliance in the Maharashtra derby that saw Pune trounce U Mumba. “Ajay played the role of an all-rounder that day. He got a lot of successful raids and was performing well in defence too. His performance inspired the rest of the team to play confidently and we all know what happened next,” said Joginder of the day when U Mumba were thrashed 41-19.
Despite a missed opportunity to score a crucial win that would have strengthened their chances to make it to the top four, the mood is upbeat in the Pune setup. Thakur’s words corroborate the confidence in the Pune camp. “We know in our hearts that we will reach the final, let alone the semis. We have set our minds to reach the final. Hopefully, everyone stays fit and god willing, we’ll reach the finals, said Thakur with immense confidence.
The Paltan camp will be worried about the injury of their captain Manjeet as they face a dangerous looking fourth position Telugu Titans up next.