U Mumba’s pre-season strategy in Kerala’s kabaddi country

Sipping a tender coconut sliced by some of the country’s champion kabaddi players here tasted refreshingly sweet here on Tuesday. And that’s probably why U Mumba, the current Pro Kabaddi League champion from Mumbai, landed quietly at Cheruvathur, a small green town in Kasargod, for its fortnight-long pre-season fitness camp.

With temperatures dropping in the north, U Mumba has moved to the warmer climes of Kerala. Here the players are seen sipping tender coconut water at Cheruvathur.

Sipping a tender coconut sliced by some of the country’s champion kabaddi players here tasted refreshingly sweet here on Tuesday.

And that’s probably why U Mumba, the current Pro Kabaddi League champion from Mumbai, landed quietly at Cheruvathur, a small green town in Kasargod, for its fortnight-long pre-season fitness camp.

With two editions of Pro Kabaddi coming close together, within the space of just five months after the last one ended in August, teams are trying out new strategies to keep players fit and fresh for season three which begins on January 30.

And the Mumba franchise believes the tender greenery of Cheruvathur would soothe weary limbs and minds.

“I love this place, this is wonderful,” said Patna Pirates skipper Rakesh Kumar, the captain of the triumphant Indian team at last year’s Incheon Asian Games, who has now joined Mumba.

“It’s also very cold in the north, so we can get injured faster if we train there. It’s pleasant and warm here, it’s good for us,” said Rakesh, the costliest buy at the Pro Kabaddi’s inaugural edition, who hails from Delhi.

The team stayed at a luxury hotel in Mumbai before the last edition and trained at the hotel’s gym. But Shabeer Bapu, Mumba’s hero in the final against Bengaluru Bulls with a super raid in the last few minutes, feels that the countryside offers a very refreshing change.

“If you’re looking at fitness, this is the best place to train…lovely beaches, mountains, the climate is wonderful, there’s no pollution and it’s pleasantly warm. In a city like Mumbai, we have the traffic, there’s lot of travelling involved, and here there is none to disturb us,” said the 29-year-old from Palakkad who is now settled in Bengaluru and working with the State Bank of Mysore.

“There is a small hill near the team’s training base with steps cut in the rock…there are more than 50 steps there, ideal to build strength which is very crucial at this stage,” explained Mumba coach Bhaskaran Edachery who guided the Indian women to gold at the 2014 Asian Games.

Kabbadi country

“This is also my place and this is an area which has an amazing interest in kabaddi. There are some 200 to 300 small kabaddi tournaments happening here every year but the children do not have big goals, so this camp will offer them a chance to observe a champion team from close quarters.”

Mumba has not lost any of its players during the recent transfers, it also gained a seasoned all-rounder in Rakesh Kumar, but Bhaskaran feels that two editions coming close together would leave the body weary.

“We were the runner-up in the first season and champion this season and I think maintaining a winning position is a lot tougher than winning the top prize.”

Puneri Paltan, the Pune side, appears to be the biggest gainer from the recent player transfers.

“Pune has made a lot of changes, they were eighth in the last edition, this season they roped in five players from Bengaluru, including Pro Kabaddi’s Most Valuable Player Manjeet Chillar and Ajay Thakur. Top players from Telugu Titans and Jaipur Pink Panthers have also joined Pune, so it’s very strong. It will be the team to watch,” said Bhaskaran.

Clearly, the stage is set for a hotter season in Pro Kabaddi’s season three.