Home they come, in-form U Mumba

It was only six months ago that U Mumba celebrated the season 2 win and there would be pressure upon it to retain the title. Other teams hankering for the title are a revamped Patna Pirates, Pune Paltans and Bengal Warriors.

U Mumba has 40 points from 10 games and is placed second on the table.   -  Sandeep Saxena

U Mumba thrashed Bengaluru Bulls 39-18 at Delhi’s Thyagaraj Sports Complex and has arrived for the four home matches of the Pro Kabaddi. With the business end of the league approaching, teams with a chance to have a shot at the title, including the defending champion U Mumba, are girding up its loins for the last three-days of the league in the city.

It was only six months ago that U Mumba celebrated the season 2 win and there would be pressure upon it to retain the title. Other teams hankering for the title are a revamped Patna Pirates, Pune Paltans and Bengal Warriors. Telugu Titans is also in with a chance should it beat the top two in U Mumba and Pirates. Virtually out of the running for a semifinal berth, Jaipur Pink Panthers, winner of the inaugural season, face U Mumba on Sunday at the NSCI, Worli.

U Mumba coach Bhaskaran Edachery is pleased with his team’s performance and is hoping for a near-perfect finish in the home matches. He said: “I am very satisfied. It has been an excellent performance by my team so far. We confronted coordination related problems in the first few matches. That's because the main players were training with the Indian team for the SAF Games.

The defence-side players could not practice with the other members of the team before the first league match. We won the first game, yet there were coordination problems. Usually it's during the last ten days of the training activity that we try to reach perfection on the coordination aspect among the players. Surender Nada, Mohit Chiller and Vishal Mane were with the Indian camp."

The defending champion began the second phase of its training from January 4, but Nada, Chiller and Mane left for the India camp on January 19 and returned on January 28. But once they joined the team a day before the start of the league, practiced and played matches, the ‘Tal-mel’ was back in the team. “We won five matches. Thereafter four players, including Anup Kumar, left for the SAF Games. This did not really disturb the team in a big way,’’ said Bhaskaran.

'Rakesh controlled the team extremely well'

Former Pirates captain Rakesh Kumar took responsibility of marshalling the side when four players went for the SAF Games at Guwahati. Bhaskaran was all praise of the role played by Rakesh. “He got a chance to play with freedom. In a way the four players being away for three matches (one match of the Kolkata leg and two matches of the Pune leg) helped the team. Rakesh controlled the team extremely well.”

U Mumba did not opt for a Services player, but that's because it had a settled and balanced team and also for the fact that it did not know the players it would get out of the lottery system. Bhaskaran who has been the coach of the Indian team for eight years and also the Army and Services team for 20 years, said: “There were only five players among the Services lot who could have figured in the starting seven. We had a set team of seven and also two very good substitutes. But the next time we may select the Services players.’’

Touching upon the fitness of the players Bhaskaran said: “I believed that to perform and survive the pro-league, a player has to be in top physical condition because a team has to play 14 back-to- back games. So, high level fitness is essential. Shabeer Bappu was injured in the first season, but that's unexpected. So we had a 45-day camp before season 2 and out of this we focused on physical conditioning for 32 days.

We came out clean after 16 games .This time around, we chose to train for 19 days at Cheruvathur in Kerala. The environment is natural there with sea shore and mountains. By god's grace we have not had any serious injury issues this season. It's not easy to become a champion team, but there was no pressure on the team. The morale of the team has been high right through the season.’’

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