Arguably the best batsman in cricket, Sachin Tendulkar's forays into other sports as team owner are yet to inspire the same confidence as his trademark front foot punch down the ground did for more than two decades. Tendulkar would definitely like to change that and his ownership in Tamil Nadu seemed like a step in the right direction. After all, the game is huge in the state. Moreover, teams based in Chennai have traditionally fared well in sporting leagues across the country.
The auctions, however, might have brought the little master face to face with the demons of nervous nineties all over again. At the auctions, the Thalaivas management picked a star as the priority player but seemed to have missed a trick by failing to supplement him with other quality players to build a formidable side.
Having said that, the history of the league admonishes any observer that one must never discount the rookies in the Pro Kabaddi. And with the long history of the game in the state as well as richly experienced Bhaskaran as the Thalaivas coach, there is more excitement than nervousness among the owners and viewers about the team’s prospects in their debut season.
The team, however, largely revolves around a few experienced names and the onus will be on these players to lead the team into the playoffs. These are the five Thalaivas the team will look forward to lead them to glory:
#1 Ajay Thakur
You don't have to look much beyond the 2016 World Cup to understand why the auctions went into a state of frenzy when Thakur's name came up. That Tamil Thalaivas managed to buy his services ended up merely a secondary fact, such was the rush to buy him. Thakur has been around for some time on the Pro Kabaddi stage but hasn't exactly produced the kind of performance that he showcased on the World Cup stage. It's not too difficult to track down the reasons for the same.
The Pro Kabaddi put many a star together on the same team. While it enhanced the game of some, some struggled to come to terms with it. Having said that, the 31-year-old doesn't possess a mean record by any measure and buoyed by the World Cup success can only be expected to better it in a team where he for once is in the lead cast and not the supporting ensemble.
#2 Amit Hooda
The youngster turned up for the Jaipur Pink Panthers in the last season and by ending the season as the second best tackler, he gave a good account of himself. His agility and presence of mind were on show every time he came on the mat and it was clear that such a talent was getting wasted in a team full of stars.
This season, with four new teams in the fray, the older teams have had to shed some stars while the newer teams tried to build their teams around a few them. Such a scenario is perfect for the mercurial ex-Panthers defender as it promises to give him a longer run in the league and with that more chances to express himself.
#3 C Arun
C Arun in the left corner along with Deepak Hooda in the right corner will hold the key to the success of the Thalaivas. As the history of the league suggests, the stronger the defence, the more formidable the team is.
Not the biggest of the names in the league, Arun has been effective nonetheless and that is the reason the Thalaivas picked him in the auctions. Arun would be keen to make a mark in the fifth edition of the Pro Kabaddi League with a new franchise.
#4 Dong Geon Lee
Before India lifted the Kabaddi World Cup last year, they suffered a shock defeat at the hands of South Korea in their first game of the tournament. While the match remains largely forgotten after India’s stupendous show that followed that match, one can’t easily forget the destruction caused by Dong Geon Lee who inflicted an all out and reduced the trail from six to two with four touch points. That moment proved to be the catalyst that lifted the Korean spirits who then went on to inflict a humiliating defeat on India.
Thalaivas have bought the services of the same man to showcase his skills on the Pro Kabaddi League stage and the Korean comes with a certificate of approval by Coach Bhaskaran who has earmarked the raider as the next big thing on the league.
#5 Anil Kumar
Anil Kumar got picked up in the auction for Rs 21 lakhs. His Pro Kabaddi record might not be extremely impressive but the defender will look to improve that in the coming season as he looks to be given a more pivotal role in the team’s defence along with Hooda and Arun.