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.