The first part of this feature saw us review six of the 12 men behind the game and how they fared this season. Here we take a look at the remaining coaches from the teams who left the competition behind and made it to the playoffs.
1. J Udaya Kumar - U.P. Yoddha
J Udaya Kumar may have avoided the spotlight in Season 5 but his work to get the U.P. Yoddha players together paid rich dividends. It was evident as the debutants managed to leave behind more experienced teams like Bengaluru Bulls and Telugu Titans to steal the third and final playoff spot from Zone B. The Dronacharya awardee recognised the potential in captain Nitin Tomar and used him as an all-rounder to good effect. Some unfortunate failures in the defence led to the team having a disappointing home leg but the experience of Rishank Devadiga and Tomar in the offence helped the team catch up in the later stages of the league. Defenders Sagar Krishna and Jeeva Kumar also looked a lot better once the team settled in, highlighting Kumar’s ability to learn from his mistakes.
2. Rambir Singh Khokhar - Haryana Steelers
Rambir Singh Khokhar was working with arguably the best defensive line-up in the league with Haryana Steelers and he made sure to get the best out of it. The Haryana defence looked impenetrable for a long time and was well supported by the raiders. Youngster Vikas Kandola was a revelation for the team and his combination with the experienced Wazir Singh gave the team a solid attacking platform. Khokhar also used his bench strength to good effect, bringing in players like Prashanth Kumar, Deepak Kumar Dahiya, Vikas and Jeeva Gopal at vital junctures to unsettle the opposition.
3. BC Ramesh - Puneri Paltan
The 2005 Arjuna Award winner BC Ramesh brought a lot of experience to the table for Puneri Paltan. He and Captain Deepak Hooda moulded the Pune team into one of the most well-rounded outfits of the league. Spoiled for choice in defence, Ramesh used the right men at the right time and was able to stop the march of a number of teams with big names in the raiding department. Ramesh also recognised the talent in young players like Akshay Jadhav and Suresh Kumar and used them well in crucial do or die raids.
4. Jagdish Kumble - Bengal Warriors
The Bengal Warriors team came into Season 5 with a killer instinct which the team lacked in previous seasons. A lot of credit for this goes to coach Jagdish Kumble and new captain Surjeet Singh. Kumble balanced the aggressive raiding style of the flamboyant Maninder Singh with that of Deepak Narwal and Jang Kun Lee to lend the team stability in attack. Kumble also read the game well and was able to give clear instructions to the players in the time outs.
5. Manpreet Singh - Gujarat Fortunegiants
Master strategist Manpreet Singh managed to bring Gujarat Fortunegiants to the brink of victory in their debut season itself but unfortunately ran into a rampaging Pardeep Narwal in the finals. However, his winning strategies and use of mind games constantly kept the opposition guessing. Gujarat’s domination of the league was evident in the fact that they were the only team to remain unbeaten in their home leg. Whether it was the use of young Sachin to put in quick raids or juggling Sukesh Hegde, Mahendra Rajput and Chandran Ranjit according to the match situation, Singh was right on the ball throughout the league. He also held all his cards very close to his chest till the match began which played to Gujarat’s advantage.
6. Ram Mehar Singh - Patna Pirates
Brought in to ensure a hat-trick of VIVO Pro Kabaddi titles for Patna Pirates, Ram Mehar Singh kept the motivation levels in the team high and helped them get to the title easily in the end. Singh’s biggest advantage was that he knew his team’s strengths and weaknesses well. He kept using Dubki King Pardeep Narwal to good effect and then unleashed the season’s surprise package Monu Goyat on opponents to continue the onslaught. Patna’s defence was considered their weakness in the initial stages of the league but Singh worked on the errors committed and the team looked a compact defensive unit in all the playoff matches. Singh also put a lot of trust in his players and did not intervene unless necessary. Overall, Singh turned out to be just what the doctor ordered for Patna Pirates and he managed to lead them to one of their strongest performances in VIVO Pro Kabaddi so far.