Chennai-based Tamil Thalaivas chose youth over experience at the Season 5 VIVO Pro Kabaddi auction with 15 of their 24 players under the age of 25. While this will give them more options going forward, as a younger squad will mean better fitness levels, it could prove to be a double-edged sword. The side lacks players who have played at the highest level and proven their ability to turn games around. Captain Ajay Thakur is well aware of this fact but he doesn’t think much of it. “We have an inexperienced side with young players who will play their first competition at this level but the boys are confident,” he said ahead of their opening match against Telugu Titans on Friday.

The star of India’s 2016 Kabaddi World Cup winning campaign will be wary of a strong Titans side led by Raid Machine Rahul Chaudhari but has enough experience to know that anything can happen on the day. “We need some amount of luck on the ground,” Thakur said. “We all have good teams but luck does play a part in the sport. So, we will give it our all and try to win.”

As captain, he feels his experience will help him ward off pressure. “I have been playing kabaddi for 10 years and have also represented India, so there is no pressure. I am ready for the challenge and will deliver my best,” he said with confidence.

Meanwhile, Tamil Thalaivas’ rivals from the south, Telugu Titans are in no mood to take their opponents lightly. “We are pretty serious about every match,” said skipper Chaudhari, “The Thalaivas will make their debut this season but that team already has experienced players and we have played along with them.”

After flattering to deceive in previous seasons despite being one of the strongest raiding sides, Chaudhari feels the team now has what it takes to go all the way. “We are not paying much attention to our previous results. Our team is working hard and we have also included players like Rakesh Kumar and Rohit Rana to boost our side’s strength. We will be quite a handful to our rivals in this edition,” warned the raider before adding, “Rohit Rana is a brilliant defender and his defence skills along with the addition of Rakesh Kumar’s all-round experience will bring stability to the team.”

The current top raider of VIVO Pro Kabaddi also feels this will be the most exciting season of the league yet. “The longer league will allow more recovery time,” he said. “Plus, there are new additions like the young players and new teams playing every day. So, I think the league will become more popular this year,” Chaudhari concluded.