Ahead of the play-offs of Season 2 of Star Sports Pro Kabaddi on the 21st of August, 2015 to be played at the Dome@SVP, NSCI, Mumbai, captains from the four teams who have qualified for the play-offs – Anup Kumar (U Mumba); Meraj Sheykh (Telugu Titans); Manjeet Chhillar (Bengaluru Bulls); and Sandeep Narwal (Patna Pirates) gathered at the Dome at NSCI, the venue for the #FinalPanga to share their thoughts on the upcoming showdown.
First up was Star Sports Pro Kabaddi’s first international captain, Iranian Meraj Sheykh from Telugu Titans who finished the league stage in second position with 50 points. When asked about how he felt when he became captain of the Titans. “I am happy to be given the responsibility of captain. I want to give my best so that my team wins like all other teams.” Their opponents, Bengaluru Bulls, remain unbeaten against the Titans over two editions of Star Sports Pro Kabaddi. The Bulls who sealed their spot amongst the final four by maintaining an air-tight defence, might have their work cut out for them as the Asian Games 2014 silver medalist identified his opponent’s strength and said his defence was up to the task. “Bengaluru have a good defence but we also have worked on our back line, we’ve developed some specialized tactics to neutralize Bengaluru, I guess we will just have to wait till tomorrow.”
Second in line was Meraj’s rival captain in the first play-off of Season 2 of Star Sports Pro Kabaddi, Manjeet Chhillar from Bengaluru Bulls who finished the league stage in third position with 48 points. “Both teams will be going for a win because it is for that coveted spot in the finals. Concerning Ajay Thakur, we have given him two days of rest and that was necessary because of our opponents in Telugu Titans.” Talking about their Southern rivals, Manjeet Chhillar remained unfazed by Meraj’s challenge, expanding on the Bull’s specialized plans for them. “Telugu Titans play at a fast pace but we will cash in on their mistakes. Our defence will take care of their aggression.”
Regarding how their attack will perform, Manjeet was confident of Ajay performing his best. “I don’t have to worry about Ajay because he will perform his best tomorrow night. About Rajesh Mondal, he is a good third raider who plays for his team and if his role is to sacrifice himself in the do-and-die raid, then he does it for the team and I am happy.” Manjeet also indicated that his team would rely on their strong defence to secure a place in the finals.
Next to step up to the stage was the most recent qualifier to the play-offs, Star Sports Pro Kabaddi’s youngest captain, Sandeep Narwal from Patna Pirates who finished in fourth position with 41 points. The big question in the room was Sandeep replacing Rakesh Kumar as Patna Pirates captain. “I don’t feel any pressure and I never thought I would replace Rakesh as captain. I don’t feel like the captain because everyone on the team is a captain and we respect everyone’s thoughts and opinions on the team.”
On their qualification for the play-offs at the last moment by beating reigning champions Jaipur Pink Panthers, “We worked hard to quell the threat posed by Jaipur, our strength lies in our synergy, our synchronised defence. We were strong and played as a unit. I don’t raid as often as I used to because we have a bunch of very talented raiders who are rotating well, I am a defender by trade and staying back allows me to concentrate more on that aspect of my game.”
The fourth and final captain to be presented was the captain of league table leaders U Mumba, Anup Kumar. Having only found out their opposition for the play-offs last night, Anup was wary of their opponents. “We are not underestimating the Patna Pirates, they showed great resilience to overthrow the defending champions and we know what they are capable of but we are ready. Shabeer has overcome and injury and is fit for the play-offs, which is a huge boost to the team.”