In the fifth edition of the Pro Kabaddi League, the Tamil Thalaivas made their debut under the tutelage of Ajay Thakur, who tried to single-handedly put in an effort to lead his team to a position of strength but all in vain as the Thalaivas could just register six wins from 22 matches, finishing with the wooden spoon from Zone 'B'.
In the auctions ahead of the sixth season, the Thalaivas seemed to have addressed the gaping holes from last season through some useful additions to the squad, and one man who can change the fortunes of the Thalaivas is Sukesh Hegde.
A nippy raider who has tasted tremendous success in the national circuit as well as the Pro Kabaddi League, Sukesh is all set to don the Thalaivas' colors and will play an imperative in their campaign this season.
Sportskeeda caught up with the talented raider, who hails from Mangalore in a chat circling around his experience with the Thalaivas, the presence of big names in the team and the season ahead.
It is good fun to be a part of a new team. The management has done well to bring together a team of youth and experience, which is certainly more formidable than that of last season. We have been training for more than two months, and we are confident for the season ahead.
Sukesh is no fresher to the challenges that the Pro Kabaddi League throws to each player who steps onto the mat and having hardly found a place in the Gujarat unit, Sukesh hopes for a fresh chapter with the Thalaivas.
In the last season, the Gujarat team did not have a lot of experience. This season, this Thalaivas team has a lot of experience through Manjeet Chhillar, Ajay Thakur and others. Experience always counts and mistakes can be easily rectified.
Making their debut in the last season, the Thalaivas could hardly find their feet, owing to the lack of experience in the team that hurt them in crunch situations. However, those issues seem to have been shut out with coach Bhaskaran showering his wards with words of advice.
Bhaskaran Sir has infused a lot of confidence in the team. He has brought his experience from coaching the Indian team to the Thalaivas this season and that will certainly help us strategise all through the league.
One of the best raiders from Karnataka, the Mangalorean will be playing his first ever Pro Kabaddi League season under Ajay Thakur, and Sukesh claims that he has been granted the freedom to go out on the mat and express himself.
Ajay Thakur is not an aggressive captain at all. We have a great bond from a lot of years. He keeps to himself and is a calm presence on the mat, which always helps all of us to go about our task easily.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, Sukesh also brushes away the rivalry between the Tamil Thalaivas and the Bengaluru Bulls. Hailing from Karnataka, Sukesh is bound to have some emotions aside for his homeland, but all of that is reserved for only after the league.
Kabaddi is an Indian game and the Pro Kabaddi League is a professional league. Playing for the Tamil Thalaivas and excelling here is my main focus. There is no such emotional connect that I have with the Bengaluru Bulls or any other team for that matter of fact.
However, Sukesh Hegde is made to feel at home as he has with him a very exciting right cover defender Darshan J, who is also from his home state of Karnataka. The youngster excelled in his first outing with the Thalaivas last season, and Sukesh is quick to mention that he shares a very special connection with the youngster.
Darshan joined the Thalaivas as a youngster looking to make a mark last season and he performed exceedingly well. He has been an excellent roommate for the past month, he is a lot of fun to hang around with and whenever he comes to me for advice, I always make sure that I am available to help him out.
Apart from Darshan, Sukesh also mentions that he enjoys a very special friendship with skipper Ajay Thakur, fellow raider Surjeet Singh and most of his teammates. However, he also deals with the experienced faces in the squad such as Manjeet Chhillar and Jasvir Singh.
Everyone has seen Manjeet Chhillar's style of play, a very serious approach that has brought him a lot of laurels in the past. Off the mat, Manjeet bhai is also a very fun character to hang out with. Jasvir Singh, on the other hand, is a very chilled out character, who is always in the mood for jokes. He keeps the mood lively on the mat and off the mat, that rubs off on the rest of us.
Jokes apart, Sukesh Hegde has continued to train extensively for the previous season and has been training for two months, preparing in full earnest and indulging in more workouts in order to do well for his latest franchise, which will flag off its campaign with the first match at home against the Patna Pirates on the 7th of October, 2018.