Haryana Steelers had a reasonably good debut season in VIVO Pro Kabaddi where they sealed a playoffs spot for themselves by finishing third in Group A before bowing out to eventual champions Patna Pirates in the second Eliminator. They managed to impress one and all by staying ahead of more experienced teams like U Mumba, Jaipur Pink Panther and Dabang Delhi K.C. and being one of the only teams to have given a tough fight to the dominant Gujarat Fortunegiants in the group stages.
A lot of credit for their stellar show goes to the strategies and plans of their team coach Rambir Singh Khokhar. His idea of combining the two Indian corners Surender Nada and Mohit Chhillar along with the masterstroke of selecting young Vikas Kandola to lead the raiders worked wonders and gave the team an edge on the big stage.
In an exclusive interview with ProKabaddi.com Khokhar revealed what went into picking the team ahead of the season. “Our idea before the auction was to focus on having a strong defence,” he said. “With that in mind, left corner Surender Nada was our primary pick. He plays well with Mohit Chhillar, so Chhillar was another player we desperately wanted in the team. Another priority for us was to have a young team. If you notice, 11 of our players are below 21 years of age and are from the Sports Authority of India. We then tried to balance the offence with the defence.”
One player from the Steelers who was particularly impressive was young Vikas Kandola who scored 58 points in the 9 matches he played before being laid off because of an injury. Khokar said he had been following the youngster’s exploits since he played in the junior team and was always confident he could do well at the highest level. “I have seen Vikas play in both Sonepat and Gandhinagar. He was one of the best Indian raiders in the junior level and I knew he had the potential to make the leap to the senior level as well. His technique is different from that of other raiders and that is what makes him so effective,” Khokhar observed.
An experienced campaigner, Khokhar was quick to point out that a coach’s role goes well beyond just picking the team and teaching them new skills. “A coach has a big role to play on a stage like that of VIVO Pro Kabaddi,” he explained. “The players are part of the coaching camp for around 5 months of the year. In this time, the coach has to also work as a manger and keep the team disciplined. Along with teaching the players techniques and skills, the coach also needs managerial skills to keep the team going over the five-month period,” he concluded.