After enjoying a good player auction prior to Season 9 of vivo Pro Kabaddi, Telugu Titans looked good on paper and had high hopes for the campaign but couldn’t quite live up to the billing due to a variety of factors.
In complete contrast to the team’s expectations, the Titans went on to endure a very underwhelming campaign which saw them win two matches and lose 20 times as they finished at the bottom of the league table.
Their defence, in particular, failed to put their best foot forward as their eventual score difference for the season of -245 indicates. A combination of mistimed advanced tackles and gifting avoidable points to the opposition didn’t help their cause either.
Furthermore, their offence couldn’t quite work as a cohesive unit, relying heavily on ‘Baahubali’ Siddharth Desai to do the bulk of the scoring. Their lack of a supporting cast in the attack ended up costing the Titans dearly as an off day at the office for Siddharth Desai meant that the team’s entire offence often blanked, leaving the defence exposed with the hapless task of playing catch-up from the outset.
A lack of a leader who was in form also played its part in the Titans' struggles in vivo Pro Kabaddi Season 9. The experienced Ravinder Pahal was entrusted with captaincy duty at the start of the season. However, his lackluster displays on the mat meant that he couldn’t lead by example and eventually had to step aside for the betterment of the team.
Another experienced defender who struggled to showcase his ability was Surjeet Singh. Like Pahal, a lot was expected of seasoned defender Surjeet Singh but he couldn’t quite live up to the billing as the Titans were forced to rely more on the duo of Vishal Bhardwaj and Parvesh Bhainswal to marshal the troops.
While Vishal Bhardwaj and Parvesh Bhainswal did demonstrate their defensive prowess in a few games, they needed more support from the rest of their teammates. Similarly, Siddharth Desai often found himself as the lone wolf in attack for the Titans. The Titans’ top-scorer with 142 raid points from 17 games, over-reliance on Siddharth - who also missed a few games through injury - led to Telugu Titans frequently falling short in close encounters.
The over-dependence on Siddharth is highlighted by the fact that Abhishek Singh with 56 raid points from 16 games was the Titans’ next-best raider. Monu Goyat, who a lot was expected of at the start of the campaign, was another raider who couldn’t quite get going as his 32 raid points across the season suggest.
When considering that the Titans’ big guns like Pahal, Surjeet Singh, Abhishek Singh, and Monu Goyat all failed to make their mark in Season 9, it’s easy to understand their below-par performances. Add to that, the constant chopping and changing of captains and it’s safe to say that the lack of a stable leadership also played its role in the Titans finishing rock bottom in Season 9.
Lastly, what’s also worth noting is the Titans’ coach setup may not have had the best of seasons behind the scenes. While both head coach Venkatesh Goud and assistant coach Manjeet Chhillar have plenty of vivo Pro Kabaddi experience, they seemed to find it difficult to get their message across to the players and churn out the results that the franchise wanted.
Only two wins all season, one in the first leg in Bengaluru and the second in front of their home fans in Hyderabad, also suggests that the coaching methods may not have been suited to the players in the squad.
To sum things up, there were many factors behind the Titans’ downfall in Season 9. Whether that were issues with the coaching front, unstable leadership, or a lack of cohesion between attack and defence, what’s clear is that it’s time to go back to the drawing board for Telugu Titans and start afresh.
Season 9 can act as a learning curve for the team and the upcoming campaign can prove to be completely different should they absorb the takeaways from last year and adopt a new approach going forward. Since loading the team with experienced players clearly didn’t work out, perhaps having a better blend of youth and experience can be a good starting point as the Titans build toward redemption in Season 9.