Puneri Paltan got the better of Gujarat Fortunegiants at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Mahalunge, Balewadi in Pune on Saturday by a scoreline of 43-33. While winning coach Anup Kumar saw plenty of positives - including the successful return of Nitin Tomar - at the post-match press conference, Gujarat Fortunegiants' Manpreet Singh can only hope for more in his upcoming fixtures.
Q. Was this your best win of the season, considering the result in front of the home fans?
Anup Kumar: Today was the home leg's first match, the crowd was with us in full support and maybe that's the reason why we played so well and won with such a good margin. We have three more matches remaining (in Pune), and if the audience keeps supporting the team like this, then we will play the remaining three matches just like this one.
Q. Could you say a few words on Nitin Tomar's performance?
Anup Kumar: Very happy! The team needs this kind of performance from Nitin, the way he played with so much gusto. I spoke to him earlier in the afternoon well before the start of the match because he had a little niggle, and he said he would definitely play in the home leg. I told him only one thing, if you want to play then he has to go all out, so that your game and your quality is obvious to the public and the opposition. He said he would give it his all and play well, and he proved that.
Q. All your senior players played well today...
Anup Kumar: The team all-round played well; Balasaheb Jadhav, Surjeet Singh, Girish Ernak, Nitin... Pankaj Mohite had an up-and-down game, because he had a little pain in the head as he had got hurt in the previous match, but he still tried.
Q. The defence scored almost as many points as the raiders, so how happy are you with that?
Anup Kumar: The defenders need to click, that's very important. The defender's role is to hold back the raider and the defence's performance today has been very good, I am very happy. If we play like this in the remaining matches, then we can easily qualify for the playoffs.
Q. What happened today?
Manpreet Singh: This is a game, and whoever plays better on the day and has patience wins. The way Gujarat Fortunegiants is known, we didn't play it out that way. In the opening 5-7 minutes, neither the raiders clicked nor the defence. Because of that Puneri Paltan managed a hefty lead and we couldn't cover that throughout the match.
Q. Do you feel you underestimated Puneri Paltan?
Manpreet Singh: In vivo Pro Kabaddi, no team takes the other team lightly. They prepare well and we did as well. But that didn't quite agree on the mat; whatever we had planned, the practice we had done in the last three days... But that's a part of the game. When you make mistakes, then the other team wins.
Q. It seems that now every match will be a do-or-die to reach the playoffs...
Manpreet Singh: See, there's still a chance. If the team plays the way they did today then we won't qualify. All players will have to give it 100 per cent, only then we will qualify. Because here no team is lesser than the other. There are good raiders and defenders in this league.