Pro Kabaddi League 2018, Ajay Thakur: 'The presence of ex-captains in our team is a huge boost'
The sixth edition of the Pro Kabaddi League is just around the corner which will play host to some riveting action as some of the best kabaddi talents from all across the world will look to put their best foot forward for their teams.
One man, who has been thrust to the elite level of Indian kabaddi is Ajay Thakur, who will be leading the Tamil Thalaivas, for the second consecutive time in two seasons. The ace raider, who has a penchant for keeping his team out of troubled waters for close to a decade enjoyed a successful season last time around as he picked 222 points from 22 matches.
However, his herculean effort went in vain as the Thalaivas hit rock-bottom from Zone 'B', with just six wins from 22 matches. Now, as the new season approaches, Ajay will hope to see a reversal in fortunes with some extra experience being infused into the team.
Sportskeeda caught up with the Thalaivas skipper ahead of the commencement of the league and got his inputs on his reunion with Manjeet Chhilar, the Thalaivas' preparation, the distinction between leading the Indian team and the Thalaivas and more.
We have been preparing extremely well for the past few weeks. Last season, our combination was not great but this season, we have a fantastic mix of youth and experience. Manjeet, Jasvir and Sukesh are all class players which makes our team that much stronger.
Last season, the Thalaivas finished with the wooden spoon and in the auctions ahead of season six, they managed to rope in a host of experienced players such as Manjeet Chhillar, Jasvir Singh and Sukesh Hegde.
What makes the additions imperative is the fact that all the three aforementioned players have led sides in the history of the Pro Kabaddi League to good effect. Ajay Thakur explained how this can work to the Thalaivas' experience.
Having the three of them in the mat is a huge boost for the team. If the scenario arises that I am out of the court, the three of them are more than capable of understanding the situation and leading the team.
Recently, Ajay Thakur led the superstar-stacked Indian team at the Asian Games where the Men in Blue made it to the semi-finals, only to lose to a charged up Iran setup led by Fazel Athrachali.
Now, only a few months later, Ajay will be leading the Tamil Thalaivas in the sixth edition of the league, hoping for redemption from their below-par performance last season. The Thalaivas skipper dealt with the differences between leading the national team and the PKL team.
When you are captaining the country, it is a huge responsibility on your shoulders. Since you are representing the nation, you need to be aware of all the decisions you take. In the Pro Kabaddi League, if you lose one game, you are losing the game for a franchise, so it is not too difficult to come back from a bad patch.
The Thalaivas endured a horrific debut last season under Thakur, with more than half the team under-performing. With a new season fast approaching, Ajay Thakur believes that for his team to do well, it all comes down to the self-confidence each individual has in them.
For any team, it all comes down to how the players perform right through the season. If you look at U Mumba, they were doing really well in the first three seasons. In season four, all their star players split into different teams that saw them underperform. This season, we have a good set of players who can be expected to do well.
The season six auctions found itself in the history books as for the first time, bids were called for which went higher than ₹1 crore. Monu Goyat stole the headlines as he demanded a huge sum of ₹1.51 crore, making him the highest paid non-cricket Indian athlete.
However, all was not rosy as veterans Manjeet Chhillar and Jasvir Singh were both snapped up for their base prices by the Thalaivas. Ajay Thakur attributed this to injuries but also considers the purchase as a bonus for his team.
If you look at their record from last season, they played very few matches owing to injuries. Most teams would have struck them off their list going by their fitness but I knew that Manjeet Chhillar would be 100% fit for the sixth season and hence would be an ideal player to fit into our team structure. Same case goes with Jasvir Singh.
Apart from the two veterans, the Thalaivas also procured the services of seasoned Karnataka raider Sukesh Hegde, who had an indifferent season with finalists Gujarat Fortunegiants last season but Ajay Thakur has pipped him to do well.
From a young lot of players at the Thalaivas this season, skipper Thakur went on to add that right cover defender Darshan J, who picked 41 points from 20 matches last season will be the one to watch out for.
My gut feel is that this will be Darshan's season. He was in great form last time around and he has looked confident during our training sessions as well.
Overall, the Thalaivas skipper is optimistic about the season ahead and reckons that his team is more than capable of posing a stiff challenge to any opposition that comes their way.
With a wealth of experience in the squad to go with an exciting mix of youth in the team, the Thalaivas look a much more formidable side and if they rectify the mistakes from the previous seasons, can go a long way in their campaign which they kick-start against defending champions Patna Pirates on the 7th of October at the home, the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai.