Telugu Titans captain Rahul Chaudhari has his task heavily cut out in Season 5 of VIVO Pro Kabaddi after going on an eight-match winless run with their only victory of the campaign coming on the opening day. The Titans will take on U Mumba at the Babu Banarasi Das Indoor Stadium in Lucknow on Saturday and will be desperate for a positive result to help build the confidence in the camp. The leading raider in league history, Chaudhari has had a lean spell by his lofty standards but he is still one of top raiders this season. The Telugu skipper sat down with recently in Ahmedabad and spoke about his kabaddi journey as well as what he makes of his team’s performance so far.

How did your kabaddi journey begin?

I started when I was in my village but mostly I learned kabaddi when I was in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. First, I wanted to join the army so I started running. There was a kabaddi trial in Gandhinagar so I went there and was a defender at first. So, I got to know that kabaddi is played at the national level as well and the players also get good jobs. So, I was there for four years, and over there my coach also gave me a lot of practice. As a defender, I got fewer opportunities to play because there were many senior players in the team. So, I thought to myself ‘what can I do to be in the team?’ During the do-or-die raids, I was introduced into the game because as a defender I was very good with the ankle hold. I learned kabaddi here in Gandhinagar and started raiding as well.

Do you still have interest in the ankle hold or it’s gone?

I had to start it again because the defence of my team is not performing. I have played as a corner in two seasons for Telugu. So, I think I may have to be in the corner again.

Do you think the fact that your defenders aren’t managing to revive you swiftly brings added pressure on you?

Yes, the defence has become very weak this season. In the previous seasons as well our defence was weak when compared to the raiding department. All the raiders from our team perform well and get points for the team but the defence is not yet confident, so they make mistakes and give away some extra points.

So, are you working on improving the defence?

Yes, we are working but I don’t know what the problem is. Our coach also tells them what the defence should do in practice sessions as well as before the matches. But I cannot understand the problem because during the match they forget everything and play like new players as if they don’t know how to play. We have many experience players but there is still a problem.

What difficulties have you faced as a kabaddi player?

Before Pro Kabaddi there were lots of difficulties which we faced but after Pro Kabaddi the players have received good support. We didn’t get jobs previously because there was no fame in kabaddi. During matches, we used to travel by train in general class.

Is it true your parents didn’t like that you were playing kabaddi?

Yes, they didn’t like it. I got a lot of beatings as well. I didn’t know that kabaddi can get me a job. This also I got to know after leaving my village.

Are your parents happy now?

Yes, they are happy now but now the team is not performing well. So, they are also a bit nervous.

Everyone knows you as a raid machine. Does that tag bring any pressure with it?

I don’t take any pressure about the raiding but now I have to take pressure because my team is not performing well. I really don’t know what the problem is because even though the team is performing, we are still losing the matches. 

Do you do anything differently to handle captaincy or does it come to you naturally?

I don’t do anything differently for captaincy. If there is a senior player in the team or any other player who is performing well, then the coach can make him the captain. I don’t have any interest in captaincy. I can play without being a captain as well.