Pro Kabaddi League 2017 Season 5: Sachin is very much like Pardeep, says Gujarat coach Manpreet Singh
Indian kabaddi veteran Manpreet Singh has fond memories of the third season of the Pro Kabaddi League as he led the Patna Pirates to their maiden title. Two seasons later, he is back in the highly popular pan-India league, albeit in a different role.
He is now the coach of the Season 5 debutants, Gujarat Fortunegiants. His team have made a dazzling debut and have led the Zone A standings for much of the season until they were dethroned by the Haryana Steelers in the recently-concluded Delhi leg.
Manpreet has a lot to feel proud about. Out of the 16 matches they have contested so far, they have lost just four. Gujarat have definitely made their title-winning ambitions clear.
Ahead of Gujarat’s blockbuster clash with the Patna Pirates in the Chennai leg, Manpreet Singh spoke to Sportskeeda in an exclusive interview where he shared his thoughts on his star raider Sachin, his own team and the irrepressible Pardeep Narwal whom he has captained before.
Here are a few excerpts!
What are your thoughts on your star raider Sachin?
He is natural and totally grounded. These days, many kabaddi players develop an air after achieving success and refuse to even listen to their coaches. He is not like that.
This is exactly how Pardeep is. There is no difference between the Pardeep who started out and the Pardeep who is a star today.
When did you first hear about Sachin?
He was in SAI Gandhinagar and that centre is like a temple for kabaddi players. I too received my training from that centre. There is no star in the Pro Kabaddi League who hasn’t trained there, be it Anup Kumar, Rakesh Kumar, Manjeet Chhillar, Sandeep Narwal or Deepak Narwal.
I first saw him playing there. I had a wish that if I got a chance to coach any team, I would get Sachin into that team. So when I was offered the coaching role for Gujarat and told to pick a player, I got Sachin into the team.
He was not even 18 at the time of the auction. He turned 18 this July. All the teams were chasing Sachin because they knew about his immense talent. He showed a lot of spark in the pre-season training camp and has been performing well.
He was very thin initially but has gained weight now. He will do even better in the upcoming season.
How would you rate Gujarat’s performance in their debut season?
The strongest point about Gujarat is that we have got the best support staff out of all the 12 teams. I can say this from my heart. Your team can only deliver good performances when you support it well.
Even when we lost a couple of matches, they [support staff] made it a point to boost our confidence and morale. Whenever results did not go our way, they have always come forward to help us. So I would like to share Gujarat’s success this season with the owner, trainer, physio and manager.
It’s not a big deal to come out and play a good match in the Pro Kabaddi but to keep the winning run going is a big challenge. The Gujarat team have shown it in the first season. Having not lost a single match at home, they have created a new record.
The team bonding is extremely important for the whole unit to deliver on the mat. If a player feels pain, his team members should be able to feel his pain. If a player is happy, everybody should be happy for him.
This is what Gujarat are all about. They are playing together. If you observe our matches, it’s always a team effort and every player has contributed. It’s not just that one player makes a rich haul of 10 or 20 points and the others are nowhere in the scene. It’s always total teamwork.
Secondly, our bench strength is very good. Whoever is sitting on the bench also delivers the moment he is put on the mat, be it Pawan or Mahendra Rajput or Rohit Gulia or Rakesh Narwal or Ranjit. The reserves are also good.
Which team do you think can be Gujarat’s biggest challengers from here on?
This is a tough format. It’s not easy for any team to advance to the playoffs and the final. You can see that all the teams are close in our group, be it U Mumba, Jaipur Pink Panthers or Haryana Steelers. So it’s not really possible to discern who will emerge from these.
Zone B is slightly easier. Patna Pirates are doing so well in that group and Bengal Warriors too. After the Chennai leg, maybe we will get an idea about which teams are likely to progress.
It’s very difficult to predict anything in kabaddi. It’s a body contact sport. You never know when your star player can get injured. When that happens, the whole team suffers and it takes a lot of time for them to bounce back.
Now it is that time when, if a player gets injured, he does not have enough time to recover. The team also do not have enough time to wait for their injured player. So we have to be very careful while playing both on the mat and off the mat too.
You captained the Patna Pirates to their maiden title win in Season 3 and now you are the coach of the Gujarat Fortunegiants. Which one has been a sterner challenge for you?
When you are a player, you only go out on to the mat to enjoy the game and give your best. That life was different.
When you become a coach, you have a lot of responsibilities. When I was a player, I had no idea that a coach works so much. I now salute all the coaches who groomed me through the years.
The coach has so many challenges. First, they train the boys, then guide them off the field, then plan a certain match’s strategy. A player can get time to rest but the coach has to keep on working 24 hours!
The job of a coach is definitely challenging. I have always looked forward to taking on new challenges. Whenever people say that I cannot perform, I always derive satisfaction from successfully doing it.
I am really enjoying my role as a coach. When your team listens to you, it makes you more content. If I tell my team to come for practice at 6am, they arrive 10 minutes early.
You have played with Pardeep Narwal. Can you share your thoughts about the irrepressible raider?
Pardeep first played in Season 2 for the Bengaluru Bulls, but he did not get a chance in the starting seven. I am not sure if he got injured after that or the coach did not appreciate his talent. He went back home.
In Season 3, when I became the captain of the Patna Pirates, the owner and manager told me that they needed a couple of good raiders. Pardeep’s name came to my mind. The owner agreed to talk to Pardeep after hearing about his skills from me.
He attended the training camp in Gandhinagar. The owner was impressed and claimed that he was better than all the recruited players. Pardeep was given instructions on how to raid, when to start a raid, how to execute the dubki etc. He was familiar with all these skills already, but they were sharpened in that camp.
Another wonderful quality about Pardeep is that he is extremely humble and grounded, just like Gujarat’s Sachin. They neither make loud statements nor do they talk much. They are totally ‘desi’.
Whatever Pardeep was told to do, he executed with perfection. In the ongoing season too, he has been the best. He is still very young and definitely has about a decade left in kabaddi.
He will do even better in the upcoming seasons. I feel very happy to see that talented kids like Pardeep are coming up.
So, the future of Indian kabaddi definitely looks bright, right?
Yes, of course. The star players are already established. Players like Rahul Chaudhari, Manjeet Chhillar and Sandeep Narwal are already giving their best. But the talented youngsters are outperforming them nowadays.
There is Pardeep and Sachin. There is also Vikas Khandola and in Telugu Titans, there is Vishal Bhardwaj. In U Mumba, there is Surinder Singh.
Loads of young talent are coming up in kabaddi which makes India’s future very bright.
The audience gets bored seeing the same player every day. The arrival of a new player piques interest. They also bring new skills. Everybody knows about the established players. For example, it is well known that Jasvir Singh is adept at scorpion kicks. But not many people know about Sachin. So, the new players bring a surprise element which is very important for the success of a team.
Everybody knows that Pardeep does the dubki. However, very few people are able to stop him and he is scoring Super 10s freely. Why is that?
If Pardeep’s team reach the final this season, then he has a great chance of crossing 300 points. I very much believe in it.
When you kick during a tackle, you are more at risk of being caught. But when you try the dubki, you are more certain of bagging points. It is Pardeep's favourite and he executes it so brilliantly that no matter how strong the defender is, Pardeep won’t be tackled until and unless the defender gets support from behind. He can escape from anywhere. It is god's gift.
Nobody can claim that they taught Pardeep that. He does it solely by instinct. Nobody can fix a time at which Pardeep will attempt the dubki. It is purely natural.
His timing has almost always been perfect and that is the biggest reason why he has done it so well. And it is beautiful to see when he evades the defenders and manages to make a successful escape.
Players like Pardeep will take India to an even higher level in kabaddi.
If I remain the coach of the Gujarat Fortunegiants next season, I will try my best to retain Sachin and also try to rope in Pardeep.
So, do you think you have a defender in your team who can stop Pardeep?
It is very difficult to say, but yes, we are working hard. We have two matches remaining against the Patna Pirates. We shall try hard to ensure that Pardeep gets very few points. We can only try but I cannot make any promises.
Monu Goyat is in top form. What do you think of him as a player?
Monu is very different from Pardeep. Monu’s game is based on reach and touch points. He focuses more on bounce. His turning is excellent. Besides, his toe touch is also superb. He concentrates more on only one defender.