Abhishek Bachchan: PKL starting in Chennai a good omen

"This season, I think, we have a great squad," says Abhishek Bachchan, owner of Pro Kabaddi League franchise, Jaipur Pink Panthers and co-owner of ISL side, Chennaiyin FC.

his year, we’ve got 80 per cent of what we wanted at the auction, said Abhishek Bachchan at an event in Chennai.   -  M. Vedhan

Jaipur Pink Panthers owner Abhishek Bachchan, on Wednesday, spoke to Sportstar about the squad for the sixth season of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) among other things. 

On Jaipur Pink Panthers’ zero retention (before the auction):

Even two years ago, we hadn’t retained any players. This season, I think, we have a great squad. We’ve got a new coach who was very clear about the squad he wanted.

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It’s challenging to sign your ideal team in the auction. This year, we’ve got 80 per cent of what we wanted; there was luck as well. I daresay, on paper, it’s possibly the strongest Panthers squad we’ve ever had. 

On new signings Sandeep Dhull (who no team picked last auction, and the Panthers has picked for 66 lakhs this season) and Mohit Chhillar:

There was some technical problem in his contract (Sandeep's) with the league, or something like that. So, he wasn’t eligible to bid on (last season). But he’s always been someone we’ve had our eye on. And, I think, since he didn’t get to play last season, he has a point to prove (this time).

He's been great in the training so far. It’s exciting to have Sandeep and Mohit in the corners. One of my personal favourites Santhapanaselvam too plays right corner for us. He got injured last season.

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He’s done well. Selvamani, who’s from Salem, was actually a top-rated player last season but unfortunately got injured in his first match. He’s back. He’s been training. He’s somebody we took under our wings, helped him get his rehabilitation done, and he’s been doing really well now. So, not only do we have a good starting seven, I also think we have a good second seven.   

On the culture of having long pre-season training:

I remember we just had less than four weeks of training in the first season. And even now, I think, they try and do about a month minimum. Because when you get into physical preparedness, a month is almost the minimum you need; it takes at least a month to condition your athletes in a particular way.

This year, the challenge was that we had the Asian Games. That’s why the league got shifted as well. Otherwise, traditionally the league finishes just before the ISL starts. So, a lot of teams did strength and conditioning way in advance. There are different strategies (that different teams follow).

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I know certain PKL teams that started their pre-season camp three months ago. Kabaddi is a body-contact sport. So, the chances of injury is a lot. And, although you’re meant to have a squad of 25, the way the auction pans out, most teams end up having 18 to 20 players. So, you can't have a player injured for the entire season. I think that's what the pre-season helps with - (Physical) conditioning.

On Chennaiyin’s first home game and the start of the first leg of PKL being on consecutive days:

It’s interesting ‘cause now PKL begins in my town of Chennai. So, our first home match is on the 6th (Oct.) (Chennaiyin FC), 7th (Oct.) is when the PKL kicks off, and the Panthers plays its first match on the 10th (Oct.). So it’s fun. It’s a good omen for me.