Pro Kabaddi League 2018: Anup Kumar talks about a new journey and new beginnings as he gets set to lead the Jaipur Pink Panthers in season 6
For the first time ever, 'Captain Cool' Anup Kumar will not don a U Mumba jersey in the history of the Pro Kabaddi League. The man with 78 Pro Kabaddi matches under his belt, 489 raid points and 57 tackle points to his name was not retained ahead of the auctions and he was snapped up by U Mumba's arch nemesis, the Jaipur Pink Panthers.
While the colour of the shirt may have changed, there's no disputing that the name on the back stays the same; a name that is synonymous with trust, leadership, faith, guidance, fitness and composure.
Anup is going to look to bring all of that and more as the Pink Panthers get their season underway today. And guess who they face? U Mumba.
Sportskeeda caught up with the Arjuna Award winning former India captain a few days ago as he embarks on this new journey.
"It's a new team, new players, new coach. Everything is new. Even for me, it's a new beginning", says Anup as we get started talking about how he's going to be in a different team for the first time. "So it's a fresh start and I think this team is equipped to do well."
The Pink Panthers were aggressive in the auctions and made a lot of big-money buys - raider Deepak Niwas Hooda along with defenders Mohit Chhillar and Sandeep Dhull were bought for big sums.
Two of those in Deepak and Mohit, however, are returning after the disappointment of the Asian Games where they were key starters for the Indian team. We asked Anup about their state of mind and he revealed that they did come in a little low on confidence.
"We arrived first for camp, they arrived a little later because they were given some extra time off after the Asian Games. They were little nervous when they first came back; anybody would be if their team has lost and not won something which they were expected to win", Anup said.
"We spoke about it (Asian Games); they mentioned all the things that they felt they did wrong. They were obviously upset about it, but bit by bit we tried to tell them that look at the end of the day, it's just a game. Winning and losing is part of it. It's not guaranteed that we will win every time.
"We lost because of our mistakes. And we're now going to make sure that those errors are not repeated. There's a great opportunity now with the new Pro Kabaddi season starting and these players have a chance to show how good they really are."
Besides being one of the coolest captains around, Anup is also known for his tactical acumen. A master of the tactical empty raid, he feels that the league now in its sixth season is almost entirely dependent on strategy.
"There's a lot of planning and strategy in kabaddi these days. That's what's making the difference. Earlier on people used to comment on why I was making empty raids and wasting time. Now they probably realize that there was a strategic element to it. It was according to the game situation."
Anup is also known to be a tremendous mentor to young players and he will look to lend that same sagely veteran advice to his teammates in the Pink Panthers setup. Mainly, he has only one message to almost all the youngsters.
"My advice to them would be that they keep a good discipline and play well", says Anup. "I generally try to motivate them. Be it an NYP (New Young Player) or someone a little younger than me, I generally like to focus on the good things, the positives. The one thing I tell them is that kabaddi now has a bright future. I tell them to look at where it was and where it is now."
"And it's likely to grow even more. Which is why I want them to maintain their discipline, so that when they go out and travel to places, people should not be given an opportunity to say anything negative about kabaddi players. A bad reputation should not be developed", he adds with a smile.
(The Jaipur Pink Panthers play their first match of season 6 tonight against U Mumba @ 8 pm IST)