Pro Kabaddi 2019: "Rahul Chaudhari is the most hard-working player in the team," says Tamil Thalaivas' captain Ajay Thakur
In season five of Pro Kabaddi, four teams made a foray into the league which saw the tournament also shifting to a three-month-long format featuring some top-flight kabaddi action courtesy of the biggest names in the sport.
One team amongst the quartet, the Tamil Thalaivas, led by India's favourite kabaddi stars in Ajay Thakur came in with a lot of hope as apart from their star skipper, the team had the likes of local raider K Prapanjan and a rising star in the right corner, Amit Hooda.
However, the team failed to stitch in individual performances and finished rock-bottom from Zone B with just six wins from 22 matches, despite 222 points from skipper Ajay Thakur. At the back of a shoddy show from their debut season, the Thalaivas needed something special soon.
Ahead of the sixth season, the Thalaivas made some impressive buys as they roped in the services of seasoned veterans Manjeet Chhillar and Jasvir Singh. Sukesh Hegde and Athul MS were also added to the roster to add flavour to the raiding unit.
Yet, similar issues came back to haunt the Thalaivas as they failed to get their team combination right and with some big names unable to bring about performances, the team was hit by severe inconsistency.
The end result, was even worse. Just five wins from 22 games forced the management to retain faith in just Ajay Thakur and Manjeet Chhillar as they opted for an entire squad re-haul ahead of the upcoming season.
With a large purse of money to splurge in the auction, the Thalaivas made some exciting buys in the PKL season seven auctions, bringing in big-match players such as Rahul Chaudhari, Mohit Chhillar and Ran Singh into the roster that has added a formidable outlook to the Thalaivas unit.
However, the pressing issue for the Thalaivas will be to evade injury concerns and the team skipper Ajay Thakur dealt on the importance of remaining fit prior to the upcoming Pro Kabaddi season.
The whole team is preparing extremely well for the season ahead. The main focus is to ensure that there are no injuries because if players are hit by injuries prior to the season, then it becomes very difficult for them to recover in time.
One of the biggest signings for the Tamil Thalaivas was that of Rahul Chaudhari, who will be playing his first ever season for a team other than the Telugu Titans. The five-star raider will be partnering skipper Thakur, and the latter cannot wait to get the season underway.
I am very excited to play with Rahul and our partnership has been very strong over the past years for the national team as well. For this season, he will join me in the raiding unit and I am expecting the same partnership to continue in this season too.
With the Thalaivas team faltering as a unit last season, the management decided to retain only two stalwarts in Thakur and Chhillar but also made a bold move to keep faith in towering Kenyan raider Victor Obiero. Quizzed on the strategy behind keeping Obiero in the team, Thakur was quick to point out the benefits the raider brings to the table.
Victor is one of the quickest learners of the game and has fully understood the intricacies of the sport. He has adapted very well to situations and is now an important player with his various skills.
Boasting of a wide-array of superstars such as Manjeet Chhillar, Rahul Chaudhari and corner defenders Mohit Chhillar and Ran Singh apart from skipper Thakur, there is always room for complacency. However, Thakur sheds light on the importance of taking it one game at a time.
It is not possible to say that we will go on to win the title for certain but our primary aim is to qualify for the knockouts stages after which we will look to go further from that stage and hopefully go all the way.
Yet, even in this Thalaivas outfit, the famous quote 'Too many cooks spoil the broth' could come to haunt them. As pointed out by Thakur himself, one area of concern would be to avoid over-confidence ruining the performance on the mat.
The biggest weakness in my opinion is the fact that the team is filled with superstars and there is a possibility for over-confidence to creep into the team atmosphere. We will have to ensure that this does not happen and we come together to bring positive results in the end.
Undoubtedly, Rahul Chaudhari will be the Tamil Thalaivas 'X-factor' for the upcoming season and his experience across all these years will play a massive role in outlining the Thalaivas' campaign. Thakur dealt in length on Chaudhari's importance to the team.
Rahul is like a younger brother to me. I have watched him play since he was very young and also got him a post in Air India. He is a wonderful player and is a very caring human being as well. In my opinion, he is the team's most hard-working player.
With an array of superstars set to take to the mat for the Thalaivas, the Ajay Thakur-led side look the most balanced team on paper. However, Thakur knows a thing or two about teams being strong on paper but failing on the big stage and signs off as he hopes to get his team across the line.
On paper, our team is undoubtedly the most formidable looking unit. However, a team is not what is looks on paper but what it brings on to the mat. We will need to put in the hard work on the mat and ensure that we do not repeat our mistakes from last season.
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