Tamil Thalaivas head coach J Udaya Kumar (left) with new recruit Pawan Sehrawat
Tamil Thalaivas head coach J Udaya Kumar (left) with new recruit Pawan SehrawatTamil Thalaivas

Thalaivas coach Udaya Kumar banks on Pawan to break play-off duck

During the interaction, Udaya Kumar also spoke about why the franchise decided to spend big on Pawan, the team’s pre-season preparation and his targets for the forthcoming campaign.

CHENNAI: Pro Kabaddi League team Tamil Thalaivas has been perennially poor so much so that its ardent fans have become tired of saying ‘this is the year when we break into the play-offs’.

Thalaivas, which made its entry into Pro Kabaddi in 2017, came nowhere close to qualifying for the knockouts in its first four seasons – finishing at the foot of the table thrice and taking the penultimate position once.

But, the Tamil Nadu-based team has received a shot in the arm with the arrival of ‘Hi-Flyer’ Pawan Sehrawat, for whom the franchise shelled out a record-breaking Rs 2.26 crore at the auction last month.

An unstoppable force on the mat in the last few years, Pawan brings with him a bundle of points and the winning mentality.

His invaluable addition to the squad will help Thalaivas in its pursuit of a maiden play-off berth – in PKL Season 9 that will run from October 7 – head coach J Udaya Kumar told DT Next in a virtual chat.

During the interaction, Udaya Kumar also spoke about why the franchise decided to spend big on Pawan, the team’s pre-season preparation and his targets for the forthcoming campaign.

EXCERPTS

How has the team’s pre-season preparation been?

We have been training at a private hotel in Kochi since August 18. We have made arrangements to train outdoors. We have the necessary facilities. The weather conditions are favourable as well. Most of the players have been with us since the beginning of the camp; they are eagerly waiting to get back on the mat [in PKL 9]. All the players are happy. In fact, they have been happier since the arrival of Pawan Sehrawat.

Talking about Pawan Sehrawat, why did you decide to break the bank for the superstar raider at the auction?

When we create an auction strategy, we look at not only strengthening our team but also weakening a few others. We had a dynamic auction strategy.

But then, you spent more than half of the purse on one player…

Last season, we spent nearly Rs 2.4 crore (Rs 2.38 crore to be precise) on three players at the auction – Manjeet, Surjeet Singh and K Prapanjan. Unfortunately, we did not get the returns we wanted. Our team’s top-scorer was Manjeet (with 167 points). If you look at Pawan, he scores a minimum of 200 points every season (he scored 320 points in Season 8, 360 in Season 7 and 282 in Season 6). He is worth the money. When you have a player like Pawan in the team, the defensive department’s confidence improves; the defensive unit will know that Pawan will earn a lot of points.

Does Tamil Thalaivas, which now possesses a game-changer in Pawan, have the squad to finally break the play-off duck?

I know that the fans were disappointed with how we played in the second half of the previous season. They expected a lot from us, but, unfortunately, we could not deliver. The defenders struggled towards the end of the season. Also, we did not have a lead raider who scored points consistently. That is why we lost many matches in the dying moments. For this season, we have solved our problems, both in offence and defence. The young defenders got competition exposure last season, so they are not tense anymore. They have the experience now. We have brought in a leading raider in Pawan, who will be doing the majority of the raiding duties during the season.

What are your expectations from the upcoming season?

The young players have become mature, having played with and against stars. They should avoid making silly mistakes in the final few minutes of matches. We need to come up with consistent performances; we are preparing for the same in the pre-season camp. The presence of Pawan is a huge boost, but we will not put a lot of pressure on him. The other players also have roles to perform. Overall, we are confident of doing well.↔– SS

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