Chennai, Oct 20 (IANS) The burden of captaincy off his shoulders, star raider Rahul Chaudhari feels he can now lead Telugu Titans to the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) title this season after a disappointing campaign last time.
A below par fifth place finish in season 5 saw Chaudhari fluff his lines initially before relinquishing the captaincy midway.
The 25-year-old India player saw his fortunes rise, but it wasn’t enough to lift the team whose best finish was fourth in season 4.
“When I was captain of the side, my raiding was getting affected. I was always concerned about a tackle being made, whether the team balance was being maintained and so on,” Chaudhari told IANS.
“A captain, I feel, should be a defender because a defender can hold the team together. A raider is best left free of responsibilities as he is always on the move. A defender is always inside the court and he has a better overview of what’s going on,” he added.
“So this season, I have been left free and that helps me perform better,” said Chaudhari who has been prolific in scoring raid points this season.
Chaudhuri wasn’t initially retained by the franchise, but during the player auctions, the management used the Final Bid Match card to retain him for a whopping Rs 1.29 crore.
Chaudhari has the highest raid points overall — 666 — and has 543 successful raids over five seasons of the glitzy league.
Asked if the team is over-reliant on him, the defender-turned-raider who was part of the national team that won gold in the 2016 South Asian games, said: “The focus is often on a good defender or a good raider.
“In my team, the focus is a bit on me. I also try to live up to expectations. We have some very good players in the team. Our captain (all-rounder Vishal Bhardwaj) is good and so are the Iranians Abozar Mohajermighani and Farhad Milaghardan.
“Our bench strength is also very good. The substitutes will get a chance to show their mettle also and the overall balance of the side is quite diverse.”
Talking about the Asian Games, where India lost to Iran in the semifinals and failed to reach the final for the first time since the1990 Asiad, Chaudhuri — an integral part of the team — termed it as a flash in the pan but also seemed on guard against future complacency.
“We took Iran lightly. They sent a second string team in the Dubai Masters as well. We thought we would beat them at the Asiad, but that was not be,” Chaudhuri said.
“Iran are a very fit side and they have been doing well since the 2010 Asian Games. And in the 2016 World Cup as well, they played well against us in the final.
“It’s not that Iran are better than us. It happens sometimes that we don’t click as a team. We failed to support each other in that semi-final. We need to work on supporting and we can watch their videos and learn that art from them,” he added.
Chaudhuri signed off by saying that kabaddi has changed a lot over the years with the level of competition increasing.
“Previously, India did not face stiff competition. Now, other teams like Iran, Korea and Thailand are doing really well. We cannot be complacent any more. We cannot take any international tournament lightly.”
(Debayan Mukherjee can be contacted at [email protected])