Former India Kabaddi players Rakesh Kumar and Anup Kumar have had stellar careers as players for the national team.

Rakesh won the World Cup in 2004 and 2007 while Anup captained the country to the title in 2016 and both will be making their debut as coaches in the season 7 of the Pro Kabaddi League.

The 36-year-old Rakesh will be a part of the Haryana Steelers staff and he is happy to start his coaching stint with them as he "belongs to Haryana."

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Anup, on the other hand, had many offers come his way but he picked Puneri Paltan as he believes that its CEO Kailash Kandpal "understands the sport and sportsmen" better than anyone else.

Prepared for change in role

Speaking about the next step in his career, Rakesh stressed that it would not be a big difference as the duo has had experience leading their teams as players.

"The only difference now is that we will be outside the court. The pressure will be the same. We gained a lot of experience as players. We used to coach juniors when playing and we are going to use that experience in our new roles," said the ex-India veteran.

While agreeing with Rakesh, Anup added that the new role "will be tough" owing to the extra work they will inevitably be dealing with.

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"As a player, we could play a match and then go home but that's not the case for a coach. There are more responsibilities. We will be handling many players, which is a big deal," the Puneri Paltan coach said.

Anup also added that they had the responsibility to come back into the game post-retirement to give back to the sport.

"If we run away after retirement, who will come in? We should do it. It will be difficult, no doubt, but we should do it."

Priority on fitness

Speaking about the upcoming PKL season, Rakesh said that fitness will be a big focus as "the fitness levels have gone up" across the league.

With a two month pre-season camp and a season that happens over three months, "better the fitness, better the chances of playing through the league."

Anup singled out ₹120 lakh purchase Nitin Tomar when speaking about fitness.

"We paid a lot for him and we want him to play well. It is very important for him to play for us. He was injured last season and we will do our best to get him to full fitness in the camp ahead of the season."