With the upcoming season of VIVO Pro Kabaddi set to be bigger and longer than ever before, the demand and workload will also be unlike anything the players and teams have previously experienced. Training coupled with travelling is surely likely to take its toll in what will be a gruelling and unforgiving 13-week long season.
It will be a battle of attrition as 12 teams take part in 138 matches and it’s precisely why Dabang Delhi’s head coach Dr Ramesh Bhendigiri has prioritised fitness in pre-season. "Due to the presence of 12 teams, the league has expanded and that's why all teams are focusing on fitness. We are also devoting more time to make our team fitter. In the last 10-12 days, we have been working to improve in that regard and only from next week will we start working on our skills and tactics. All players in my team are fit and this time we will perform well," he said.
It was a sentiment echoed by star defender Nilesh Shinde, who has amassed 115 defence points over the years in Pro Kabaddi. "With so many matches to be played, our fitness level needs to be very high, that's why our coach has decided to have many young players in the squad. These youngsters are fitter and so will complement the experience of senior players and help us perform well," he said.
A PhD in kabaddi from Pune University, Bhendigiri is buoyant about his side’s chances this season and believes that they have the strongest defence in the league. "Dabang Delhi's performance in the last season wasn't bad but they suffered due to tactical mistakes in the last few minutes of the matches but this season I am confident that our team would perform magic as we have players like Nilesh Shinde, Bajirao Hodage and Rajiv Baliyan in our side. Our side is equally good in both raiding and defence aspects. I would say that our defence is the strongest among all teams," he said.
The Asian Games silver medal winner with the Thailand women’s team in 2010 also confirmed that he will adopt a rotation policy to keep his squad fresh and in optimal condition. "It has to be done. The age and fitness of senior players is different from that of younger players. Also, we need to assess these younger players. So, it would almost be compulsory for us to rotate our players and give rest to players from time to time or else there could be injuries," he said.