We need to step up in defence: Sagar

Tamil Thalaivas stand-in captain says defenders are capable of doing much better
Tamil Thalaivas has secured 46 tackle points in five Pro Kabaddi League Season 9 matches
Tamil Thalaivas has secured 46 tackle points in five Pro Kabaddi League Season 9 matches

CHENNAI: Tamil Thalaivas stand-in skipper and right corner Sagar Rathee stressed that the defensive department must raise its game if the southern franchise is to maintain consistency in the Pro Kabaddi League Season 9.

Thalaivas, which has secured 46 tackle points in five matches, has earned just a solitary victory thus far. “We need to focus more on our defence. Even without [the injured] Pawan Sehrawat, the raiding unit has been doing a decent job. But, when it comes to defence, we need to improve a lot. The team’s capability is much more. We need to step up,” Sagar, who is deputising as captain in the absence of Pawan, told DT Next in a virtual interaction.

Sagar admitted that the team is missing Pawan – in fact dearly – but said that the young duo of Narender and Himanshu Singh are performing well to fill the void left by the star raider. While new kid on the block Narender has picked up 46 raid points in five matches, Himanshu has collected 19 raid points from his three appearances.

“Obviously, we had to change our strategies because Pawan was a huge part of it. Pawan’s rehabilitation has been going well. He is recovering [from the knee injury he suffered] and is showing improvement. We hope to see him on the mat soon. The void left by Pawan is being filled by Narender and Himanshu. They are managing the raiding department well.”

‘Need to hold our nerve in final minutes’

With 10 points from five matches, Thalaivas occupies a spot in the bottom half of the table. Asked how the team will approach the upcoming games, Sagar replied: “Right now, we are not looking at the larger picture; we are looking at only the next match. We want to take one match at a time. If we succeed in doing that, we will qualify [for the play-offs].”

Sagar emphasised that the youngsters must hold their nerve in the final quarter of matches to help Thalaivas move up the table. “We do not have many experienced players in our team. Sometimes, the young players do feel the pressure in the last 10 minutes.

“But, I, as captain, try and tell my teammates to play without pressure; I tell them that they have the experience of playing in big tournaments like Khelo India Games, although those are not as big as Pro Kabaddi. I ask them to play their natural game with a free mind,” said Sagar, who has bagged 12 tackle points in five games.

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