The U Mumba captain and star raider cautions other teams against taking them lightly ahead of their opener on Friday.

U Mumba will be under pressure to prove themselves in this edition of VIVO Pro Kabaddi after a sub-par performance in Season 4 saw them failing to qualify for the semi-finals for the first time since the inception of the league. However, ‘Captain Cool’ Anup Kumar did not seem too bothered at the trophy unveiling in Hyderabad on Thursday, ahead of his team’s opener against Maharashtra rivals Puneri Paltan.

“I would like to tell all the captains and teams to not go by our performance in the last season,” he said with his trademark calm demeanour. “This is a different U Mumba outfit than the one you saw in the last season.”

On the back of some strong performances, the Mumbai franchise emerged as the winners of Season 2 and narrowly missed the title after reaching the final in Seasons 1 and 3. However, the last edition saw them record their worst performance yet after they slumped to fifth place.

Ahead of their match, Puneri Paltan were also eyeing improving on their third-place finishes in the last two seasons. Captain Deepak Hooda made it very clear. “The league is big now. It is a new season with new teams,” he said, “For the past two seasons, we came third. This year, we plan on going higher.”

The Paltan, though, will have their work cut out. In the past, whenever they had stepped onto the mat against their neighbours, they had had a hard time and managed to win just one out of eight games between them.  

Be that as it may, both teams have strengthened their ranks this season and are strong contenders for the title. U Mumba picked strong raiders such as Kashiling Adake and Nitin Madane, and they will join forces with Anup and Shabeer Bappu. They also enlisted the services of all-rounders Hadi Oshtorak and Kuldeep Singh. Meanwhile, the Paltan can boast of senior defender Dharmaraj Cheralathan, all-rounder Sandeep Narwal and do-or-die specialist Rajesh Mondal in their ranks.

Speaking on the importance of all-rounders in a side, Anup said: “The more all-rounders a team has, the stronger it gets.” His counterpart from the Pune team, Hooda echoed his views. “An all-rounder is important because of his versatility on both sides of the mat,” he weighed in.

The match will be played at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium, Hyderabad after Telugu Titans and debutants Tamil Thalaivas kick off the league at the same venue in the first encounter of the day.