Pro Kabaddi League 2019: "I am looking forward to the support from the Titans' fans," says Telugu Titans star raider Siddharth Desai
In the player auctions that were held in April, Siddharth Desai, the league's best debutant last season stole the spotlight as his services were procured for a whopping ₹1.45 crore by the Telugu Titans while Nitin Tomar was retained back in the Puneri Paltan setup for ₹1.20 Crore.
Seasoned stars such as Rahul Chaudhari, Monu Goyat and Rishank Devadiga had to settle for a pay cut as Iran's defence duo of Mohammad Nabibakhsh (₹77.75 lakh) and Abozar Mighani (₹75 lakh) were signed by the Bengal Warriors and Telugu Titans respectively.
Amongst the sea of superstars, Siddharth Desai stood tall in the sixth season with 221 raid points from 21 matches, at an average of 10.38 raid points per game and earned himself a place in the league of superstars.
With such numbers bound to add value, U Mumba's surprising release of their star player was outmatched by a massive bid by the Telugu Titans, as the latter opted to replace the experience of Rahul Chaudhari with the youth and exuberance of Siddharth Desai.
"I am very excited to play for the Telugu Titans. Last season, when I played against the Telugu Titans at Vishakapatnam, the crowd was consistently backing the team and I am looking forward to the same amount of support from the fans," said Desai, speaking about his first season with the new franchise.
For six seasons of the Pro Kabaddi League, Rahul Chaudhari was the cornerstone of the Telugu Titans unit but with the 'poster boy' shifting teams to the Tamil Thalaivas, Siddharth Desai will now play a prominent role as the face of the Titans setup.
"I hadn't ever thought that the Telugu Titans would procure my services for such a huge amount. However, the Titans have instilled their faith in me with a big contract and I will try to perform my best and lead the team to a title victory."
The fastest ever raider to reach the 50, 100 and 200 raid point mark in PKL history, Desai was in superlative form in the initial part of the tournament last season until an injury kept him out of action for a while. However, as a new season beckons, Desai is up for a new challenge.
"In the last season, I was bogged down by injuries after reaching the 100-point landmark that affected my performance on the mat. This season, I have concentrated on my fitness and will try my level best to outperform myself from last season."
Yet, even for a class raider such as Siddharth Desai, there is always room for error and the youngster does not shy away from the fact that he had issues last season, and has worked hard to fine-tune his skills ahead of the upcoming season.
"I have tried to look back at all the mistakes I made last season and assessed where I can improve. I am trying to develop some new skills for this season and will try to execute my plans on the mat."
In Desai's debut season with U Mumba, the raider earned a lot of praise from coach Gholamreza Mazandarani, who spoke very highly of the youngster. One of the biggest advantages for Desai in the upcoming season will be the presence of the Iranian coach in the Titans' setup.
"I feel very lucky to yet again learn under coach Gholamreza Mazandarani, who was my coach at U Mumba last season. He understands my strengths, skills and this will come to my advantage since he is constantly helping me to improve."
A massive figure in kabaddi owing to his top show in just a single season, Desai does not think twice before crediting his brother Suraj Desai for shaping up his career. More importantly, the two brothers will be playing together for the Telugu Titans in the upcoming season and Siddharth Desai hopes to form a strong partnership with his brother.
"I have played a number of tournaments with my brother Suraj. We form an excellent combination since he is a left raider and I am a right raider. I hope we yet again form a strong alliance and bring positive results from this season."
As Desai gears up for yet another exciting season ahead, he is quick to add an ending note about how the sport of kabaddi is not only about power but is also about the understanding behind getting past the defenders.
"The most important feature about kabaddi is the fact that the game is not only about strength but is also about applying the mind to play out situations. A raider needs to think about his strike points during the 30 seconds of a raid, figure out the loopholes in the opposition defence unit and make the most of the opposition's shortcomings through teamwork."
As a new season approaches, Siddharth Desai will be banked on to lead the charge for the Telugu Titans on the raiding front. With the likes of Vishal Bhardwaj and Abozar Mighani for support, Desai could soon manifest into the new 'poster boy' of the Telugu Titans.