PKL 2018: Dabang Delhi coach confident of a turnaround

Among the eight teams that have been in the Pro Kabaddi League since its inception in 2014, Delhi is the only team to have never reached the playoffs and has never finished higher than sixth in a season.

Action during a Pro Kabaddi League fixture between Dabang Delhi and Gujarat Fortunegiants in Chennai.   -  K.V. Srinivasan

Dabang Delhi has a reputation. Among the eight teams that have been in the Pro Kabaddi League since its inception in 2014, Delhi is the only team to have never reached the playoffs and has never finished higher than sixth in a season.

In its first match this season against Gujarat Fortunegiants, Dabang Delhi made a determined comeback in the second-half to tie the match 32-32, in what could be a sign of things to come for Delhi this season.

In a chat with Sportstar, Delhi coach Krishan Kumar Hooda expressed his confidence in a good season for his team.

“I can't speak for the past five seasons but this time we've bought a good team, our camps have been very good. We're ready to play and we will play (hum khelne ko taiyaar hai aur hum khelenge). We will play above expectations this year and I have full faith in my team. We are going to display exceptional kabaddi this year. I can vouch for it,” said Hooda.

During the press conference after the match, Fortunegiants coach Manpreet Singh, who trained under Hooda when he was the Indian national team coach between 2002 and 2004, said: “This isn’t the Delhi of previous seasons. They are a very good team.”

Hooda was non-committal in the response to his former pupil’s statement. “I haven't said it, it is someone outside that's saying it. He's saying what he has noticed; it may be true, ” he said.  

Delhi has a good amount of experience in its side with Joginder Narwal, Ravinder Pahal and Meraj Sheykh in its ranks. But in the match against Gujarat, Sheikh and Shabeer Bappu were replaced early on, and 18-year-old Naveen Kumar and Ranjit Chandran impressed.

“They are one of our experienced players, but even with them, there can be mistakes. And that's why we have 12 players. All of them can play and all of them can be substituted.

"You saw how good Ranjit was that day. Naveen Kumar is new but he is very good for his age. So when a plan fails, we always have an equally potent backup,” said Hooda, who had led the Haryana state team to National Championship gold medals in 2002 and 2003.

In his 32-year long association with the sport, Hooda has witnessed a drastic change in kabaddi in the country.

“Back in the days, before the PKL and everything, it wasn't easy for us. It was so hard for us to even get kits for the players.

“But now you're talking to us, we're housed in five star hotels, they take interviews of us and selfies with us at airports. Since pro kabaddi, there's been a huge change. And there are contributions of so many people from various fields that has made this happen,” he said.

Dabang Delhi plays its second match in the Pro Kabaddi League against Puneri Paltan in  Sonepat on Friday.