Tamil Thalaivas’ debut season in Pro Kabaddi could not have gone worse last year. The side finished last in its zone in Season 5, with just six wins under its belt.
The franchise made a statement of intent by roping in Season 2 title-winning coach Edachery Bhaskaran for the upcoming edition. Naveen Kumar will be second in command to the former U Mumba head coach. After a catalogue of calamities in 2017, the Chennai-based team will hope to conquer the kabaddi league with its courageous performances on the mat.
A lot might rest on multimillion rupee signing Ajay Thakur, one of the three players to be retained ahead of the two-day auction in May. National team captain Ajay will marshal the troops, but has the trio of Manjeet Chhillar, Jasvir Singh and Sukesh Hegde to whom he can pass the baton to during his unavailability.
Even when the rest of the team looked terrible, the talismanic raider twisted and turned, tenaciously tightening the hold in thrilling encounters. With K Prapanjan finding a new home at Gujarat Fortunegiants, Jasvir Singh is expected to combine with Ajay as the lead raiders of the team. Bhaskaran could be enticed to slot in Sukesh Hegde in a three-man offensive unit.
CPO Surjeet Singh, K Jayaseelan and Abhinandan Chandel may find it difficult to cement a spot in the starting seven, but will have their part to play from the bench. An inexperienced defence underwent a lot of lapses in the previous campaign and the new coach is in no mood to let the rustiness repeat. While C Arun and Amit Hooda return to the squad, the defensive department bores a new look with the acquisition of Manjeet and Dharmaraj Gopu.
Youngsters Pradap and Darshan are also back with the Thalaivas, but could get lesser game-time as compared to last season. The Thalaivas met the minimum overseas criteria by purchasing the South Korean duo of Chan Sik Park and Jae Min Lee. The latter was injured during the Asian Games in Jakarta and will be replaced by Kenyan Victor, who will probably warm the benches. “It will be a good learning curve for Victor. He might not feature much this season, but could play a role in the future,” said Bhaskaran.
With the curtain raiser of the league taking place here, a lot is expected from the Sachin Tendulkar co-owned side, which is yet to register a win at home.
Thalaivas vs Pirates in opener
Home side Tamil Thalaivas will have its task cut out against three-time title-holder Patna Pirates, which also happens to be the defending champion. The Pirates is led by raiding sensation Pardeep Narwal but will miss the services of Monu Goyat, who now plies his trade with the Haryana Steelers. A winning start will do Thalaivas’ confidence a world of good as it has a hectic schedule ahead of it in the coming week.
Probable starting seven: Tamil Thalaivas: Amit Hooda, Sukesh Hegde, Darshan J, Jasvir Singh, Manjeet Chhillar, Ajay Thakur and D Gopu.
Patna Pirates: Jawahar, Tushar Patil, Kuldeep Singh, Pardeep Narwal, Manish, Deepak Narwal and Jaideep.
Pro Kabaddi Season 6 squads list
Coach: Edachery Bhaskaran
Captain: Ajay Thakur
Raiders: Ajay Thakur, Anand, Sukesh Hegde, Jasvir Singh, CPO Surjeet Singh, Athul MS, Anil Kumar, K Jayaseelan, Abhinandan Chandel
All-rounders: D Pradap, *Chan Sik Park, Manjeet Chhillar, V Vimal Raj
Defenders: Amit Hooda, C Arun, *Victor, Darshan J, Sunil, D Gopu
Coach: Jasveer Singh
Captain: Rishank Devadiga
Raiders: Azad Singh | *Sulieman Kabir | Shrikant Jadhav | Rishank Devadiga | Prashanth Kumar Rai | Rohit Kumar Choudary | Bhanu Pratap Tomar
All-rounders: Arkam Shaikh | *Seong Ryeol Kim | Narender | Sagar B Krishna
Defenders: Nitesh Kumar | Pankaj | Jeeva Kumar | Sachin Kumar | Nitin Mavi | Vishav Chaudhary | Amit
Jaipur Pink Panthers:
Coach: Srinivas Reddy
Captain: Anup Kumar
Raiders: Ajit Singh | Lokesh Kaushik | *David Mosambayi | Anup Kumar | K Selvamani | Gangadhari Mallesh | Sunil Siddhgavali | Anand Patil
All-rounders: Deepak Niwas Hooda | Brijendra Singh Chaudhary | N Shiva Ramakrishna
Rawal | Santhapanaselvam | *Young Chang Ko |
Mohit Chhillar | Sandeep Kumar Dhull | Bajirao Hodage
Coach: BC Ramesh
Captain: Rohit Kumar
Raiders: Rohit Kumar | Harish Naik | Sumit Singh | Kashiling Adake | Pawan Kumar Sehrawat | Anand V | Anil | Rohit
All-rounders: *Dong Ju Hong | *Gyung Tae Kim | Mahesh Maruti Magdum | Jasmer Singh Gulia
Defenders: Amit Sheoran | Mahender Singh | Ashish Kumar Sangwan | Jawahar Vivek K | Sandeep, Mahendra Singh Dhaka | Nithesh BR | Raju Lal Choudhary
Coach: Ranbir Singh Khokhar
Captain: Surender Nada
Raiders: Arun Kumar HN | Md Zaki Hossain |
Wazir Singh | Monu
Goyat | Vikash
Khandola | Anand Surendra Tomar | Bhuvneshwar Gaur
All-rounders: Kuldeep Singh | Mayur Shivtarkar | *Patrick Nzau Muvai | Prateek
Vikas | Neeraj Kumar | Surender Nada | Sachin Shingade | Amit Singh
Coach: Jagdish Kumble
Captain: PO Surjeet Singh
Raiders: Maninder Singh | Mithin Kumar | *Jang Kun Lee | Mahesh Goud |
Amit Kumar | Amit Nagar | Rakesh Narwal | Ashish Chhokar
All-rounders: Ravindra Ramesh Kumawat | Ran
Singh | Shrikant Tewthia | Vittal Meti | Bhupender Singh
Defenders: PO Surjeet Singh | Ameares Mondal | *Ziaur Rahman | Baldev Singh | Vinjin Thangadurai | Manoj Dhull
Coach: Ram Mehar Singh
Captain: Pardeep Narwal
Raiders: Pardeep Narwal | Deepak Narwal | Surender Singh | Tushar Patil | Vikas Jaglan | Manjeet
All-rounders: Jawahar Dagar | Vijay | Arvind Kumar | Parveen Birwal | *Taedeok Eom | *Hyunil Park | Kuldeep Singh
Defenders: Jaideep | Manish | Vikas Kale | Ravinder Kumar |
Coach: Kilaru Jagmohan
Captain: Vishal Bhardwaj
Raiders: Nilesh Salunke | *Mohsen Maghsoudloujafari | Rakshith | Rajnish | Ankit Beniwal | Kamal Singh | Rahul Chaudhari
All-rounders: Vishal Bhardwaj | Armaan | Mahender Reddy
Defenders: Sombir | *Abozar Mohajermighani | *Farhad Rahimi Milaghardan | C Manoj Kumar | Sanket Chavan | Anuj Kumar | Deepak | Rakesh Singh Kumar
Coach: Manpreet Singh
Captain: Sunil Kumar
Raiders: Sachin | Mahendra Ganesh Rajput | Lalit Chaudhary | *Dong Geon Lee | K Prapanjan | Ajay Kumar | Shubham Ashok Palkar | Yashwant Bishnoi | Dharmender
All-rounders: Rohit Gulia | Anil | *Hadi Oshtorak
Defenders: Sunil Kumar | C Kalai Arasan | Amit | Vikram Kandola | Parvesh Bhainswal | Ruturaj Shivaji Koravi | Sachin Vittala | Amit Jaivir
Coach: Ashan Kumar
Captain: Girish Maruti Ernak
Raiders: More GB | Rajesh Mondal | Nitin Tomar | Deepak Kumar Dahiya | Parvesh | Akshay Jadhav
All-rounders: Sandeep Narwal | Monu | Amit Kumar | Sanjay Shrestha | *Takamitsu Kono
Maruti Ernak | Rinku Narwal | Vikash Khatri | Ravi Kumar | Vinod Kumar | Bajrang
Coach: *Gholamreza Mazandarani
Captain: Fazel Atrachali
Raiders: Gaurav Kumar | *Abolfazl Maghsodloumahali | Vinod Kumar | Darshan Kadian | R Sriram | Siddharth Sirish Desai | Arjun Deshwal | Abhishek Singh | Rohit Baliyan
All-rounders: E Subash | Shiv Om | Mohit Balyan
Defenders: Surender Singh | Anil | *Fazel Atrachali | *Hadi Tajik | Dharmaraj Cheralathan | Rajaguru Subramanian | Rohit Rana | Adinath
Coach: Krishan Kumar Hooda
Captain: Joginder Singh Narwal
Raiders: Naveen Kumar, *Khomsan Thongkham, Pawan Kumar Kadian, Chandran Ranjit, Shabeer Bappu, Kamal Kishor Jat, Yogesh Hooda
All-rounders: *Meraj Sheykh, Tapas Pal, Vishal, Rajesh Narwal, Sidharth
Defenders: Tushar Balaram Bhoir, Satpal, Viraj Vishnu Langde, Vishal Mane, Joginder Singh Narwal, Anil Kumar, Ravinder Paha
Tamil Thalaivas captain Ajay Thakur showed unflinching determination during Pro Kabaddi Season 5, fighting a lone battle for most part of the campaign.
Captains of 11 Pro Kabaddi teams pose with the Season 6 Trophy during its launch in Chennai
Despite knowing his team was on the brink of enduring defeat on different occasions, the talismanic raider never threw in the towel. His standout performances couldn’t stop the team from suffering the ignominy of losing all home games at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium here in its debut season.
As the opening leg of Pro Kabaddi Season 6 is scheduled to be held here, the Thalaivas has six games to turn agony into ecstasy, right at the start of the edition. The Chennai-based franchise boasts of a rejuvenated look, with new head coach Edachery Bhaskaran overseeing the proceedings. Ajay was confident of getting a grip early on, which will settle the nerves for the rest of the touring period. “It’s a huge advantage when you play in front of your home fans first.
The (Chennai) leg is not just taking place in the beginning, but the league is getting kick-started here. It’s the best time to have your home leg. I am sure we will begin well,” said Ajay. The Himachal Pradesh lad had only K Prapanjan to turn to and had to do all by himself in the raiding department in Pro Kabaddi 2017. But this time around, he can bank on the services of Jasvir Singh, Sukesh Hegde and CPO Surjeet Singh. “Last year, there was pressure every time I stepped on to the mat. We had only two top quality raiders, among which one was inexperienced. We have got different types of raiders in our squad this season,” added Ajay during the Captains’ meet and Trophy launch on Friday.
The side also enjoys the luxury of having a number of former captains in Manjeet Chhillar, Jasvir and Sukesh. Sukesh had guided Gujarat Fortunegiants to the final in Season 5. “I can play with a free mind now. Even If I am not on the mat, someone will take care of orchestrating the team,” remarked the 2016 World Cup winner. The 32-year-old shook opposition defences with his acute gameplay, notching up wins out of nowhere.
Speaking on how he manages to pull off such outrageous raids in pressure cooker situations, he said, “Ideally, I don’t prefer matches going into the last raid. When you are the most experienced player in the team, you will have to shoulder the responsibility. I managed to do it with confidence last year.”
Head coach Bhaskaran was hopeful of forging a prosperous partnership with skipper Ajay. “It’s an honour to be coaching the Thalaivas. The management has kept a lot of faith in me and I will give my best in driving the team in the right direction. I share a very good rapport with Ajay (Thakur), just like how I had with Anup Kumar. Hopefully, our team can carve out results and have a successful campaign,” he sounded optimistic.