Pro Kabaddi: Gujarat Fortunegiants Banking On Youth-Centric Core to Guide Them to Title
Gujarat Fortunegiants' rise from being newcomers to overwhelming favourites in the final was quick in the 2017 Pro Kabaddi League.
Gujarat Fortunegiants' rise from being newcomers to overwhelming favourites in the final was quick in the 2017 Pro Kabaddi League (PKL).
The likes of Sachin Tanwar, Parvesh Bhianswal and Sunil Kumar - largely unknown players - formed the crux of the Manpreet Singh-led Gujarat Fortunegiants that almost emerged glorious last year.
Despite the runners-up finish, few would debate that the side, who scored the most number of points in their debut season, were not the best team in the competition.
Coach Manpreet Singh, who captained Patna Pirates to a title in season three, will continue as head coach of the team. So, the emphasis on youth isn’t surprising.
"Identifying and grooming young talent, and helping them realise their full potential is my aim as a coach. As a trainer, there isn't a greater pleasure than seeing the players you developed get purchased for lakhs of rupees in the auctions. So I believe in young talent, and that's a philosophy I share with the franchise," coach Manpreet told Firstpost.
The Fortunegiants suffered massive blows during the pre-season auctions. The Ahmedabad-based outfit had six players in Category A, but rules allowed them to retain just two. They retained cover defender Sunil and raider Sachin and had to let go off the Iranian corner duo of Fazel Atrachali and Abozar Mohajermighani. On current form, the Iranian pair is the best corner combination in the world and coach Manpreet admitted that there was no replacement for the duo.
"You can't replace certain players. So you have to develop other options. Fazel and Abozar were ready. They had the experience and worked very well together. This year we have signed a few young players who did well in junior and senior nationals. We have three players each for every corner position, so I think we have an insurance policy there," the 38-year-old analysed.
Ruturaj Koravi, who is expected to take the right corner position, was one of the finds of the senior nationals last year. The left corner is a toss up between Sachin Vittala, C Kalai Arasan and Amit Sharma.
Ajay Kumar and K Prapanjan, who are among the most promising raiders in the league, have joined forces with already retained Sachin and Mahendra Ganesh Rajput. Korean Dong Geon Lee, who impressed for Tamil Thalaivas in 2017, and Dabang Delhi's raiding prodigy Shubham Palkar also are a part of the squad.
While Sukesh Hegde's experience will be missed, Gujarat's raiding department has more experience and quality compared to last season.
Speaking about their training, the 38-year-old coach said, ”This time we had lot more time to prepare that last season as in 2017 everything was new for us. So we dedicated a special camp to building players' endurance. This league is very taxing and to be successful, good fitness is absolutely critical.”
Coach Manpreet believes his team are much better prepared for the season than last season and will be eager to right the wrongs in the final last year. "We made too many mistakes in that match. Our players learned a big lesson from that game. That experience will certainly help us this season," Manpreet promised.
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