Pro Kabaddi 2019: "I am working hard to improve my fitness levels for this season," says Puneri Paltan's star raider Nitin Tomar 

Nitin Tomar is all set to play for Puneri Paltan in VIVO Pro Kabaddi League season 7
Nitin Tomar is all set to play for Puneri Paltan in VIVO Pro Kabaddi League season 7

The second most expensive player of the auction of Pro Kabaddi 2019, Nitin Tomar has been one of the most prolific raiders of the league. After making an impressive Pro Kabaddi debut for Bengal Warriors in season 3, Nitin Tomar emerged as a match-winner for India in the final of the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup. His crucial do-or-die raid turned the tables in India's favor as they retained the Kabaddi World Cup trophy.

Hailing from a wrestling background, Nitin works as a Petty Officer at the INS Angre unit of the Indian Navy. Post three seasons in the league, Tomar switched to the Puneri Paltan franchise in season 4 but he failed to replicate his former success. Pune released him ahead of season 5 as UP Yoddha picked him next.

Born and brought up in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Nitin showcased the exceptional talent he had while playing for UP Yoddha. He was the highest point scorer for UP Yoddha in season 5, with a tally of 177 points. His magnificent performances for the Lucknow-based franchise earned him the tag of 'UP ka Bahubali'.

However, UP Yoddha did not retain him for the next edition. Nitin's former franchise, Puneri Paltan recruited him for a hefty amount in the season six auction. However, the running hand touch specialist struggled with his fitness in PKL 6.

Though he had scored 102 points in just 11 games, his absence in the remaining matches led to Pune's early exit from the tournament. The Pune franchise once again released him but this time they bought him back using the FBM card. The team management of Puneri Paltan knows how big a player Nitin Tomar is, hence they paid a price of ₹1.20 Crore to bring him back in the team.

Puneri Paltan have a very strong squad for season 7 with the likes of Girish Maruti Ernak, Surjeet Singh, Darshan Kadian, Manjeet, Hadi Tajik and Sagar Krishna in the team. These players, along with Nitin Tomar will hope to ensure that the Paltans have their best ever PKL season in 2019.

As we lead up to the upcoming season, Sportskeeda caught up with Nitin Tomar in an exclusive chat as the 2016 World Cup winner reflected on his fitness levels, his excitement of working with Anup Kumar and much more.

Q. How much have you worked on your fitness levels after the issues you had in the previous season?

It is of utmost importance for any athlete to be fit. Kabaddi is a rugged sport, and one needs to concentrate on multiple aspects like agility, flexibility, speed and endurance. Fitness has been my priority and I am working hard to improve my fitness levels for this season. Apart from developing physical strength and stamina, I want to enhance my mental strength as well. I have incorporated Yoga and meditation in my daily regime to enhance my concentration and presence of mind on the mat.

Q. How excited are you to work with Anup Kumar?

Working with Anup Kumar has been a learning experience, his command over the sport is impeccable. Anup Sir is one of the best athletes the Kabaddi fraternity has ever produced, and each moment with him is very enriching. He has been a role model for me, just like every other Kabaddi aspirant. I have seen him play and I have always looked up to him. It makes me feel extremely fortunate to be training under a luminary like him. Being a legendary raider himself, his inputs have helped me improve my skills considerably.

Q. Being the team’s most senior raider, do you feel any pressure of shouldering the raiding department?

Being one of the senior players of the team, there is always a responsibility to share our knowledge and help others improve their performance. Having said that, in a team, there is no senior or junior, we are all working together to achieve a common target and each one of us adds value to the team. Puneri Paltan is like a family, we always look after each other and ensure the best for our team.

Q. What is your personal target for the upcoming season?

Honestly, my team’s target is my personal target as well. To me, there are no individual objectives and I have always believed in putting my team’s aspirations above mine. Puneri Paltan leaves no stone unturned in providing us with all the required facilities. I will sweat tirelessly to put my best foot forward and help Puneri Paltan achieve their dream.

Q. Tell us a bit about your special relation with the Puneri Paltan side. This will be your 3rd season for them, the most you have played for any team.

I am grateful for the faith that Puneri Paltan management has shown in me time and again, season after season. The team has been a major part and has impacted my career in so many positive ways, so yes, I will always have a soft corner for Puneri Paltan. This will be my 3rd season with the team which is the longest I have played for any team.

Puneri Paltan has been with me through thick and thin and I feel very fortunate to be a part of such a supportive team. I will continue to strive hard to give my best performance and make my team proud.

Q. What special do the Iranian players, Emad Sedaghatnia and Hadi Tajik bring to the table?

Iran is emerging as one of the dominant forces in Kabaddi. Iranians have a unique style of play, with different techniques that would help the team during the matches. Their approach to the game slightly differs from ours and we get to learn a lot from both Emad and Hadi. Even off the mat, as a team we have had a lot of fun together and it is great to have them as a part of Puneri Paltan.

Q. Two services players, Manjeet and Surjeet Singh are a part of Puneri Paltan. How important will their contribution be for the team?

Surjeet Singh is a very experienced player. He is a vital cog in services defence, any PKL franchise’s defence and Indian team defence. I think, he is one of the best right covers we have in the country. His presence on the mat gives other team members confidence to go all out and play their natural game without pressure.

Manjeet is a talented raider and played very well in the last season and was always there to rescue Patna Pirates in crunch situations. This shows that he is a very calm raider who doesn’t let pressure get to him and thinks rationally under pressure.

Not just Manjeet or Surjeet’s or mine, but every player’s contribution to the team is important be it senior players or the new players. Everyone is putting their heart and soul to perform and wants to leave their mark this season.

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Edited by Prasen Moudgal