BENGALURU: Back in the Pro Kabaddi League after three seasons and five years, Kasinathan Baskaran, the Bengal Warriors head coach, is on a mission. Baskaran is determined to succeed on his return in the ninth edition, with a “brand of kabaddi that the fans will enjoy”. In an interaction with DT Next here on Friday, Baskaran, a World Cup-winning coach with India in 2016, spoke about how he used the time away from Pro Kabaddi, his special relationship with the ice-cool Maninder Singh and more.
On being away from Pro Kabaddi League for a few seasons
•A coach has to prepare a team technically and tactically. For that, he has to practise accordingly. If I play on the mat, I will employ only the techniques that I am comfortable with. In a team, there are a variety of players. We will have to understand the techniques each player is comfortable with and make them masters in those. When they learn it visually from the coach, they will grasp it quicker [than usual]. Only then will we get good results on the mat. In kabaddi, ‘check and balance’ are most important. I was not part of the PKL for a few years, but I used the time to learn. I learnt a lot about fitness – the muscles that are most involved in kabaddi, how the small muscle group helps the big muscle group etc.
On how the stint with the Sri Lanka national team helped him develop
•I trained it for about seven months (November 2021 to May 2022). I looked at the movement, body fitness and mental power of the Sri Lanka players. Kabaddi has been played in one way for a lot of years, so I looked at how I could make it perfect. When I experimented with the help of the Sri Lanka players, I found some success. The confidence levels of the players increased and the number of injuries were less. During my time there, I improved my coaching quality. At Bengal Warriors, I would like to show the special qualities that I have. The Bengal players are happy with my style of coaching.
On how hungry he is to deliver on his return
•Every sportsperson looks to succeed and I am no different. Over the years, I have seen successes and failures. Kabaddi has a lot of fans the world over. I want my team to play a brand of kabaddi which will make them enjoy the sport. People must look at kabaddi and say: “It can be played by everyone. It is not a dangerous sport.” I would like to do my bit in making them understand that. My players have bought into the idea, so I am delighted.
On whether he feels the pressure of expectations
•Pressure is common. All teams and players will aim to clinch the Pro Kabaddi title. We need to make the most of the chances we get; the results of matches will depend on that. I am confident, but at the same time, I am not over confident. I am determined to win. We are devising strategies that will help us go all the way.
On his relationship with Warriors captain and star raider Maninder Singh
•Maninder looks at things in a positive way. He listens to what the coaches tell and plays accordingly. He is friendly with his teammates and motivates them to come good. We worked together in Season 1; we share a special bond. When I am on the mat, I am his coach. When I am off it, I am his friend. I try to make him an even better player with the positives that he has in his game; I try to avoid the negatives. When I spoke to him a few days ago, Maninder said: “I will be a new Maninder this season.” I really liked that.