The fifth edition of the Pro Kabaddi League is all set to start on July 28 and will be bigger and better than ever. For the first time, it will feature a total of 12 teams, after four new ones were added, and will see nearly 140 matches spread across a time period of three months - making the competition one giant kabaddi extravaganza.
One of the new teams taking part is the Gujarat Fortune Giants, who will play their home games in Ahmedabad and are owned by the famous Adani Wilmar Group. Star raider Sukesh Hegde was named the captain of the side earlier and will look to lead by example as it will be the first time he will be thrust into a leadership role in the PKL.
In Fazel Atrachali and Abozar Mohajermighani, the Fortune Giants have two Iranian pillars in defence and their presence makes the side's lineup quite a formidable one. The team have another duo in a key role in the form of Neer Gulia and Manpreet Singh, who will coach the team and look to bring in their valuable experience to the fore.
Manpreet is a former Pro Kabaddi winner himself as he led the Patna Pirates to their first ever title win in Season 3 and knows what it takes to win the trophy. He spoke to Sportskeeda in an exclusive chat, where he made some astonishing claims and also talked about the upcoming season. Here are a few excerpts!
You have spoken a lot about Gujarat going on and winning the trophy in their first season. Talk is one thing and doing it is another, don't you think?
(laughs) Everyone talks big before the tournament and everyone wants to win, obviously. We have been assessing the team's performance in practice and I'm confident about our chances.
I realise all teams are practising to win too, but I am certain that if we perform to our potential and get the best out of our players, we will win the cup.
You won the trophy with Patna in Season 3 after missing out in the semifinals in the previous two. What did you do differently then?
In the first two seasons, we reached the semifinals but lost when it mattered the most. In the third, we had more or less the same team and I was made captain.
For me, I just accepted the challenge and did what I could do best. I feel what makes the difference is how a leader motivates the players and gets the best out of them.
You have transitioned from being a player to a coach in the Pro Kabaddi League. How has that been so far? Do you think having played earlier helps while coaching as well?
It's not necessary that a good player will become a good coach. The reverse is possible as well - a good coach doesn't have to be a great player himself. What's important is the leadership quality and how the coach motivates the team.
I am actively playing kabaddi reg but not in the PKL as it won't be possible to maintain my weight for three months. Kabaddi being a contact sport, getting injured is also a frequent possibility. This season, my aim is to use my experience and guide the young players through the campaign.
What made you choose Sukesh as the team's captain?
Sukesh has been performing very well in the last four seasons. Along with that, he is the senior most player in the team and many young players in the team also consider him to be their role model.
In the Telugu Titans team, there were two big-name players - Sukesh Hegde and Rahul Chaudhari. Mehnat saari Sukesh Hegde karta tha, naam saara Rahul Chaudhari le jaata tha. (Sukesh Hegde would do all the hard work and Rahul Chaudhari would take all the credit)
Sukesh didn't get his fair share according to his performances in that team. This time around, we hope that the situation changes.
Do you feel your lack of star power in the raiding department will affect your chances of winning the title?
We have many youngsters in our team and we will make them stars. We have Sachin, who has been the captain of the Indian junior team. We also have Mahendra Rajput, Pawan and Ranjit who have great qualities. We will give it our all on the mat and hopefully, the results will come as well.Published 18 Jul 2017, 16:16 IST