Pro Kabaddi League 2017 Season 5: "When we struggle, that's when our game improves," says Yoddha defender Jeeva Kumar
When you think of tough, solid and dependable yet uncompromising defenders in this league who deliver on a consistent basis, Jeeva Kumar is one of the first names that springs to mind. For four seasons, he was a part of the famed U Mumba side. Along with the likes of Surender Nada, Mohit Chhillar, Vishal Mane and Fazel Atrachali, he formed the bedrock of that defence which propelled the side to three straight finals appearances.
He was bought by newcomers UP Yoddha for in excess of INR 50 lakh to spearhead their defence. Operating from the cover position, both left and right, Jeeva has brought a reassuring presence to every team he's been a part of. His awareness in Super Tackle situations and perfection of the dash have led to some signature moments for the vastly experienced pro.
Sportskeeda caught up with Jeeva on the sidelines of the Chennai leg, a homecoming for the defender who hails from Tamil Nadu, where he spoke about adjusting to his new role and the game here in the southern state amongst other things.
Excerpts from the interview:
On playing in his home state for the first time in Pro Kabaddi
I have gone to all the other cities before and played matches. Here, the difference is that the audience is a lot larger. The interest to watch kabaddi is high here in Tamil Nadu. The Chennai stadium is also the biggest of all the stadiums. I didn't think it would get this full and that the people here would be so passionate about it.
The first few minutes can be a struggle because being a home ground for me, my relatives, family members and friends show up to watch. But as the match progresses, it sort of becomes okay. But yes, initially it can be a little bit intimidating and you tend to make some mistakes as well.
On many young raiders from the state now shining where previously it was mainly the defenders who were known
Not just now, from the beginning we have had very good raiders in Tamil Nadu. I've seen that in my seniors’ teams as well as during my period. Generally, they are mature raiders who play continuously, perhaps sometimes not according to the situation. I do feel though that players from Tamil Nadu are getting more chances now than before after the entry of Pro Kabaddi.
On the remarkable levels of success he enjoys with the dash, one of his signature moves
It's something that I have practiced from a very young age with my club team. Not just as a team, I would practice this skill alone continuously as a result of which I got familiar with it and got the timing right. It's something that to this day I continuously practice almost every day.
On the shift from a team like U Mumba to a new side like UP Yoddha
When I was playing in that team, the opportunity for me to improve my game was less. In that team, everybody was a very good player. When everybody was such a good player, I didn't have to take many risks.
When we struggle, that's when our game improves. Here, most of them are junior players, so I have to take additional responsibility and play. I believe that my game will only get better thanks to that.
When everybody plays well, I'm just another guy there; it's a little easy. I would catch the raider sometimes when others would miss. If not me, somebody else will. Here, I have more responsibility in setting up and guiding the defence, so my game will be that much better in the future because of it.
On the impact the presence of a team from Tamil Nadu can have going forward
Even before Pro Kabaddi started, the level of interest in kabaddi in Tamil Nadu was generally very high. But the state didn't have a team in Pro Kabaddi. Everybody from here who watched always felt that it was a shortcoming, that there was no team from this part of the country.
Now because of the team coming up, that interest level has spiked for everyone. All over Tamil Nadu, people are watching these games.