A stunning performance by raider Naveen helped Haryana Steelers secure a 34-24 victory over Puneri Paltan in their opening match of the VIVO Pro Kabaddi Season 7. The match was a highly anticipated affair as it saw two VIVO Pro Kabaddi icons - Anup Kumar and Rakesh Kumar - make their debuts as coaches. In the post-match press conference, coach Rakesh Kumar and captain Dharmaraj Cheralathan took questions for Haryana Steelers while Puneri Paltan were represented by coach Anup Kumar and captain Surjeet Singh.

Haryana Steelers

Rakesh Kumar says he’s still adjusting to life as a coach

Q. Your first game as a coach. How was the experience?

Rakesh Kumar: I couldn’t stay in my seat. The official close to our technical area kept telling me to be in my seat and not go into the playing area (without a timeout), but these are habits that I developed as a player. So, it’s going to take some time to adjust, but I’ll manage.

Q. How important is Dharmaraj Cheralathan to this team?

Rakesh Kumar: He’s a leader on the mat and he ensured we stayed in control of proceedings. We’ve a lot of young blood in the team and they are obviously excited and make some advanced tackles. So, an experienced, senior figure like Cheralathan is extremely important to keep the nerves in check on the mat.

Q. Thoughts on Naveen’s performance?

Rakesh Kumar: Our plan was to let all three of our raiders, Selvamani K, Naveen and Vinay have a go and then decide who gets to raid the most. Naveen looked in great touch, so we let him do the bulk of it. We told him to focus on his footwork and work their flanks rather than the inside. We knew they would try some advanced tackles and that’s exactly what happened.

Puneri Paltan

Anup Kumar is looking forward to his return to Mumbai as a Puneri Paltan coach

Q. Thoughts on the defence?

Anup Kumar: We can improve in defence as well in offence. This was the first game of the season and we made some mistakes. We’ll definitely look to rectify them in the upcoming matches.

Q. How was your first experience as a coach?

Anup Kumar: It was a surreal experience. But the result is obviously not the one we had hoped for.

Q. Your next match is the Maharashtra Derby in Mumbai. Thoughts on that?

Anup Kumar: Obviously, it’s a big game. A Maharashtra Derby in Mumbai will draw a lot of support for the home team. We’ll have to play much better than we did today to win. U Mumba have a good defence and a versatile raiding unit. So, we’ll try to strategize accordingly.