Pro Kabaddi: Telugu Titans' Indo-Iranian duo braces for play-off race

Telugu Titans' Abozar Mighani and Vishal Bharadwaj are gearing up for a tough challenge as the side looks to reach the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL 2019) playoffs.

Dangerous duo: Abozar Mighani and Vishal Bharadwaj have been the defensive pillars for Telugu Titans in PKL 2019.   -  PKL

The burden of captaincy is often known to have robbed several players of their peak form. Irrespective of the player's stature, the pressure a captain has to endure is unparalleled.

For instance, even cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar found the going tough, by his lofty standards, in the top seat. More recently, England captain Joe Root had a poor run with the bat as his side conceded the Ashes to Austalia.

Athletes in other sports aren't immune to this either. A prime example is Iran's Abozar Mighani. Captain of Pro Kabaddi League side Telugu Titans, Abozar has struggled to juggle captaincy and his form in PKL 2019.

Abozar Mighani has been going through a slump in form, averaging a meagre 1.8 tackles per match. This is in comparison with his 65-point campaign, at an average of 2.62 tackles per match, in season five (2017).   -  PKL

 

Part of the Iranian team that beat India on its way to the gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games, Abozar was given charge of the Hyderabad-based team at the start of the season. But things haven't quite panned out in his favour.

“This is the first time I am a captain and there is a lot more pressure on me. I have to control the team, talk to the players, keep an eye on the bench and suggest to the raiders what they can do. And I have to take care of my own game too. It becomes too difficult for me at times to justify all these roles at once,” Mighani told Sportstar.

Telugu Titans is currently placed 11th in the 12-team league with four victories from 15 matches. Moreover, with a paltry 30 tackle points, Mighani has gone through a slump in form, averaging a meagre 1.8 tackles per match. This performance pales when compared with his 65-point campaign, at an average of 2.62 tackles per match, in season five (2017).

Watch our exclusive chat with the Telugu Titan's raiding siblings - Siddharth and Suraj Desai

 

However, much to his and the team’s respite, Abozar has found an able companion in fellow defender Vishal Bharadwaj. One of the brightest stars of PKL 2019, the 22-year-old has effectively anchored the Titans' defence this year.

Vishal had a breakthrough campaign in season five when he finished as the third most successful defender with 71 points. At present, he is the second-best defender in the league with 54 tackle points, including nine ‘super-tackles’.

On numerous occasions, Vishal has been seen calling the shots, taking team decisions and leading the side indirectly.   -  PKL

 

Not only has he decreased Mighani’s burden in defence, but has also doubled up as a captain at times. He credits that to Mighani’s open-mindedness and believes that he gives his players enough freedom to express themselves.

“Abozar is a great captain. He keeps motivating players, listens to everyone and is also open to suggestions. If we, the senior players, go up to him and tell him that there is something he isn't doing right or leading the team properly, he listens to us and tries to overcome his weaknesses,” said Vishal.

On numerous occasions, Vishal has been seen calling the shots, taking decisions and leading the side. Mighani has been happy to take a back seat at times and has allowed the youngster to take charge.

With seven games to go, Titans has an uphill task if it is to remain in contention for the six playoff spots. Mighani refuses to give up and believes the star-studded team, which has this season's most expensive player in Siddharth Desai, has a good chance of progressing.

“In PKL, the name doesn't matter. No matter how big a player is, it's his game that should do the talking. We are working on finding the right combination. Moreover, I feel we will have an advantage in the second half of the competition purely because of our fitness. I have noticed in the past two seasons that teams that are fitter after the half-way mark perform better. We need to make sure we keep our fitness up,” he said.