Pro Kabaddi League 2018: "Ajay Thakur's optimistic approach is a huge driving factor for the team's success" says J. Darshan
When the Tamil Thalaivas made their debut in the last season, the team was expected to go a long way in the league, spearheaded by ace raider Ajay Thakur along with the presence of Amit Hooda and K Prapanjan.
However, it all came crumbling down for the debutants as they could just claim six wins from 22 matches, and at the back of that shoddy performance, finished with the wooden spoon from Zone 'B'.
Yet, even in the spate of losses, a young defender, playing his first ever season which was only his first feel of the action on a mat shone through. That was none other than Karnataka's budding cover defender Darshan J, who finished with 41 points from 20 games and made a mark in his debut season.
Ahead of the sixth season, the Thalaivas opted to retain faith in their young defender, hoping for his rich vein of form to continue in the upcoming season. Ajay Thakur too, in a recent interview with Sportskeeda mentioned about how Darshan can be expected to have a terrific sixth season.
Sportskeeda caught up with Darshan, who discussed his family's contribution to his career, his favorite players and Ajay Thakur's calming influence on his style of play.
When I was young, I had absolutely no interest in studies. My elder brother took care of me and forced me to study, but since I had no inclination towards it, I opted to look for a career in sport. My elder brother, who took care of me initially forced me to quit Kabaddi since he failed to see some future in it. However, my mother always pushed me to achieve whatever I wanted to pursue.
Darshan, who hails from Nelamangala in Karnataka claims that he initially did not have any knowledge about the sport and only was introduced to the game by a couple of seniors, who took him along for practice.
My first time in kabaddi was actually a coincidence. I took part in a tournament during the Dusshera games that take place in Karnataka. Upon my good show there, Mr. G Parameshwar, who has played a lot in his career spotted me and gave me a chance to feature for a local club.
A consistent performer at the local circuit, Darshan soon found a place in the Karnataka team for the Nationals and the Federation Cup, which boosted his chances to get picked in the Pro Kabaddi League. In season five, Darshan found interest in Tamil Thalaivas but claims that his real turning point would be the fact that the Thalaivas retained him.
I was absolutely thrilled to hear that I was retained by the Tamil Thalaivas. Last season, I enjoyed an excellent chemistry with Amit Hooda and loved playing under Ajay sir. This season, we hope to combine even better and I am extremely happy that the Thalaivas have retained faith in my abilities.
Having already played one season for the Thalaivas and making a name for himself, Darshan is quick to trace his roots back to his hometown, where his kabaddi inspiration resides.
My inspiration to take up kabaddi is BC Ramesh Sir, who is one of the most famous kabaddi players from Karnataka. Although I have never watched him play, his style of play caught a lot of attention, something that I hope to achieve myself in the coming years.
Having drawn inspiration from back home, Darshan is also quick to add that the presence of his senior statesman, Sukesh Hegde in the Thalaivas team this season is sure to give him a lot of confidence.
I have played with Sukesh Anna while representing Karnataka. He is always ready to help me improve my game and since we have played together, we have a bond which will help the team's cause this season.
A right cover defender, this season, Darshan will have the mighty presence of Manjeet Chhillar on the left cover, whose experience will certainly come in handy for the rest of the team. Darshan dealt with the veteran all-rounder's presence on the mat, off the mat and his technique of guiding the youngsters in the team.
Personally for me, having Manjeet Sir in the team is a huge boost. He is an Arjuna awardee and his experience is unparalelled. On the mat or off the mat, during practice sessions or just when we have time to relax, he is always helping us out with some new techniques and has given me a lot of tips which I hope to utilise in the season.
A force to reckon with on the mat in that previous season, Darshan also enjoys his time chatting away with his Thalaivas teammates, who he has built a close alliance with. Now that the Thalaivas have managed to rope in some experience, it is all fun and games ahead of the grueling season ahead.
Manjeet Sir is a veyr fun-loving person on the mat and off it as well. On the mat, he always has his game face on but off the mat, he is very approachable and enjoys having fun with us juniors in the team. Similar is the case of Jasvir Singh, who is always in the mood for jokes and having some fun.
Darshan had a fantastic outing with the Thalaivas last season and attributes a major chunk of his success to skipper Ajay Thakur, who he believes is one of the best captains he has played under.
Ajay Sir is extremely optimistic and always gives us opportunities to explore our ways to get points. When we make errors, he always has our back and does not ever speak or think in a negative way which allows us to play with a lot of freedom.
With the sixth season fast approaching, Darshan is very optimistic himself about the Thalaivas chances to go all the way, with the mix of youth and experience set to decorate their campaign.
We have prepared extremely hard for the season ahead. Our ultimate goal is to win the title but on a personal level, I would love to end the season with the 'Best Defender of the Season' award.
The young defender will be in action for the Thalaivas when they kick-off their campaign against defending champions Patna Pirates at home on the 7th of October 2018.