U.P. Yoddha will start their first-ever campaign in VIVO Pro Kabaddi on Tuesday evening against home side Telugu Titans at Hyderabad’s Gachibowli Indoor Stadium. Representing the city of Lucknow and coached by Dronacharya awardee J Udaya Kumar, the team is a perfect mix of experience and young blood.

The Yoddha created history by spending a record Rs 93 lakh to secure the services of Nitin Tomar earlier this year, and the star raider admitted he was a little under pressure. “Yes, there is a little bit of pressure because after becoming the captain I have to keep the team together. We will want to win the first match,” he said.

Be that as it may, all the other teams in the league will be wary of Tomar’s troops because it’s a completely new team with a mixture of players who have played for other teams in the previous seasons. When asked how the team was preparing for the first match, Tomar sounded confident and cautious at the same time.

“We have trained hard in the practice sessions. All the players have been practising really hard and our first match is against Telugu Titans and Rahul Chaudhari. We have been making plans on how to contain him. There will also be pressure from the home crowd because they come in huge numbers to support their team,” he said.

The other star raider of the team, Rishank Devadiga, who brings in loads of experience into the team, was meanwhile looking forward to starting the season with renewed energy and style. “This time, I have learned some new skills and planned some new strategies. Our coach, J Udaya Kumar has told me where I was making mistakes in the last two seasons and I’ve been working on them. So, this time there will be a new challenge,” Devadiga said.

Discussing his role in the team, Devadiga further said: “As a raider, my role will be important because we can use Nitin Tomar in the defence as well. I have to be attacking and thinking tactically in every raid.”

Rajesh Narwal, the other stalwart in the team, is a fantastic all-rounder and one whom the opponents need to be wary of. He was confident of U.P. Yoddha’s defensive unit and claimed that the youngsters in the team would prove to be resourceful. “We have Jeeva Kumar and me in defence and we will try to perform well. We also have two talented youngsters who play in the corner quite well... We are sure to get good support from them. In the opposition, we have Rakesh Kumar who thinks a lot while playing, so we also have to focus on him and use our raiders well,” he said.

Tomar finally threw down the gauntlet, not just for their Tuesday’s opponents but 10 others teams in the fray too.  “We would like to say that we as a unit will be coming strong and hard on all the teams. So, be careful!” he asserted.