"The wealth of experience in the team always helps," says Bengaluru Bulls' skipper Rohit Kumar ahead of the PKL Season 6 final clash
The Bengaluru Bulls have enjoyed an unprecedented run in the sixth season of the Pro Kabaddi League with the star-studded unit, when only compared to last season, performing above all expectations this season.
This 'unprecedented' run saw the Rohit Kumar-led side blaze through their oppositions and in the process secure the top spot from the Zone 'B' table with 13 wins, two ties and seven losses from the 22 games in the league stages.
Ahead of the season, the Bulls made some big-ticket purchases in the auction as they roped in the likes of Pawan Kumar Sehrawat (₹52.8 lakh) and Kashiling Adake (₹32 lakh) for big sums of money, while also re-procuring the services of young cover defender Mahender Singh for ₹40 lakh.
With the raiding unit bolstered by the addition of Kashiling Adake and Pawan Sehrawat, the Bulls' biggest loophole of the dearth of raiding talent last season seemed to have been covered.
Two of the three big ticket-additions have combined to form the biggest driving force for the Bulls' success story this season as Pawan Kumar Sehrawat's purple patch (249 raid points from 23 matches) and Mahender Singh (61 tackle points from 23 matches) have struck on big occasions to take the Bulls to important wins.
Yet, the silver lining has been the influence and the words of advice from coach Randhir Singh, that has modeled the Bulls' performance from that of a mediocre one to a mighty transformation this season.
Bulls' skipper Rohit Kumar, in an exclusive with Sportskeeda, speaks about the coach's efforts in their top show this season, his thoughts on the team this season and a sneak peek into his first meeting with his idol Akshay Kumar.
"Coach Randhir Singh Sir has a massive role to play in Bengaluru's success this season. In the previous seasons, we were short on raiders and this season, the addition of Kashiling Adake and Pawan Kumar Sehrawat has added extra balance to our team."
One of India's favorite kabaddi sons, Rohit Kumar is a familiar figure in the kabaddi fraternity and made a big mark when he won the 'Most Valuable Player' award for his stunning show in the 3rd season of the Pro Kabaddi League. The Bulls skipper turns back the clock as he reminisces his foray into the sport.
"I started playing kabaddi since childhood. Rakesh Kumar was my inspiration since childhood. Wherever he played, my father accompanied me to go and watch him play. My aim was to become like Rakesh Kumar and my father was a huge support system for me and taught me a lot of skills that I use on the mat," and also observes "Even on the captaincy front, my aim is to lead the team as Rakesh Kumar did for India."
Like his inspiration Rakesh Kumar, Rohit Kumar has also won a slew of awards. However, the towering raider's journey towards choosing kabaddi as a career did indeed face a number of roadblocks, including certain junctions in his life when he considered switching the sport as well.
"During my schooling, I was slightly inclined towards playing basketball since I felt my height would play to my advantage. However, my father asked me to focus only on kabaddi since I had already learned the game after which my focus was solely on improving my skills in this game."
While most of Kumar's fans know his ability to blaze through the opposition with some clinical hand touches and venomous kicks, Rohit has also unleashed his inner defender at certain stages during this season and looks back at some of those moments.
"I have tackled quite a bit but have managed to reduce the number of tackles I put in this season compared to the previous season. The strategy is simple which is for me to spend maximum time on the mat to manage the team. Hence, to avoid silly mistakes, I do not go in for too many tackles."
In the ongoing season of the Pro Kabaddi League, Kumar has not been amongst the raid points as he averages 7 raid points per game. However, for Kumar, raid points are just numbers and the real onus lies on his ability to lead the side.
"Being a captain, the biggest challenge is to ensure that we win the trophy," he says as he goes on to say, "As a raider, the main aim is to pick points at important stages in the game and not focus on personal milestones."
A massive name in the kabaddi circles, Rohit Kumar's fans would certainly know the fondness that their idol has for Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar. As pointed out by the stalwart himself, Akshay Kumar's style and persona have played a huge role in manifesting Rohit's style both on and off the mat.
"I met Akshay Sir first in Hyderabad," Rohit recollects as he goes on "He's a gentleman who is always down to Earth. The first time I met him, he made me feel as if we had met many a time before. He shook my hand and hugged me and somehow knew that I was a big fan of his. Whenever he comes to Delhi or he comes to Mumbai, we meet and we have become close friends."
Yet, far from the glamour and charisma surrounding Bollywood, Rohit Kumar understands that the Pro Kabaddi League has had its own contribution to the growth of the sport and credits the league for a lot of his personal success as well.
"The PKL has proved as a wonderful platform for the youngsters to excel. When I first started playing, I used to travel locally and internationally but I did not get a lot of recognition. The PKL has certainly given the players a lot of recognition and has contributed immensely to the rise of the sport. Fans approach me and ask me for selfies and autographs, which also gives me a celebrity feeling," he smiles.
Re-routing to the task at hand, Rohit stays grounded when quizzed about his captaincy techniques and wards off any mention of pressure on his shoulders to lead a side that is well mixed with youth and experience.
"The youngsters might be playing their first or second season but they are guys who have a wealth of experience from the local circuit. There is not much to tell them but only a little about certain match situations. The Bulls' team has quite a lot of experience and managing the team is not a tough task at all."
In the end, when quizzed about the contrasts in captaining the Bulls from the last season to this side, Rohit Kumar does not think twice before crediting the team's composition for the outstanding run this season.
"In the last season, I was the captain but could not take the team forward. We could not form the right combinations and that hurt us. This season, Randhir Sir has built a very good team and his strategies have worked very well for us."
One thing is for sure that the Bengaluru Bulls are approaching a new chapter in their dusty book of a moribund history in the lucrative league, under one leader, the skipper who leads by example, Rohit Kumar.