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Haryana Steelers need to pull up their socks: coach Rakesh Kumar

Ashish Mani Tiwari



Rakesh Kumar.

New Delhi: One of the most experienced and successful players of Kabaddi, Rakesh Kumar had been a part of two World Cup and three Asian Games winning teams for India. Rakesh Kumar (37) remains one of the few Kabaddi players, who received Arjuna Award. sports news headlines sports world

Recently Rakesh Kumar spoke to Sports Lounge on his journey and over various aspects of Kabaddi including the performance of Haryana Steelers. sports news headlines sports world

Excerpts of the interview:

SL: Since from your childhood days, you have been a Kabaddi enthusiast, who inspired you to take up the sport?

RK: My elder brother used to play Kabaddi, I have grown watching him, which attracted me a lot, so I would like to credit my elder brother for inspiring me to take up Kabaddi as a sport and my parents and friends also supported at every point.

SL : Was there any difficult moment in your life that made you think about quitting Kabaddi?

RK: In 2003, I suffered a major hand injury and when I was recovering, I used to cry a lot, as I was not sure about the comeback that was a really difficult time for me. sports news headlines sports world

SL: You are a well-known player for a never-say-die attitude. During 2014 Asian Games final against Iran. Your (Rakesh’s) head collided with your teammate. Both of you were bleeding. The coaching staff wanted to take you off, but you played on and India won the gold. Can you recall that moment and please tell us your memories of that match.

RK: That collide happened after half time, the coach insisted me to come off but I said, it’s all about the nation and also, it was a very close encounter, so I continued and we defeated Iran. However soon after the match, I directly went to my coach and asked him to take me to the hospital, as I was not feeling well.

SL:   Following the launch of Pro Kabaddi League, Kabaddi in India has inched new heights, what do you think, is it enough to promote the sport? Do you think authorities and administration need to take more steps towards the encouragement of sport?

RK: Definitely, Pro Kabaddi League has taken Kabaddi to another level, because before Pro Kabaddi League, Kabaddi players used to depend only on Asian Games. But there is still scope for many improvements mainly from junior levels and Kabaddi authorities must look into this, to take up Kabaddi to Olympic in upcoming times.

SL: How do you see Kabaddi as an Olympic sport?

RK: We always win medals in Asian games, if our team goes in Olympic, I am sure for winning medals in Olympic.

SL: Iran has gained a lot of from Pro Kabaddi League and during 2018 Asian Games India lost in the semifinal, what are your views on the whole scenario? How can India improve ahead of upcoming tournaments?

RK: Iran has definitely improved in Kabaddi, not only Iran but other foreign players are also drawing experience from Pro Kabaddi League. 2018 loss was bad luck for us, however, we are a champion in Kabaddi. Ministry and federation need to fix regular camps and schedule ahead of 2022 Asian games.

SL:  As a head coach of Haryana Steelers, what’s your plan for the ongoing season and what are your expectations from the team?

RK: Last game was a happy run (Puneri Paltan vs Haryana Steelers July 22), but frankly I am not happy with the overall performance of the team. We need to solve our small- small problems, to maintain a fair rhythm because we will be facing a lot of good teams as we go ahead in the battle. Also, I have much more expectations from the team, hopefully, they will deliver as per the expectations in the upcoming games.

SL:  Other coaches of PKL teams have way more experience than you (Rakesh Kumar), what are your views on this?

RK: At the end of the day, the coach needs to groom and motivate his players. Yes, I am a new coach and I am watching other coaches and also I am taking advice from several senior coaches. It’s not about new versus old, it’s all about the experience that I have.

SL: Your famous ‘Lion Jump’ has become a highlight of the Pro Kabaddi League. Please tell us about it and how did you make it your signature?

RK: When I was practicing in my village, I started this kind of jump and further I honed this skill of Lion Jump. It took several years sports news headlines sports world

SL:  Could you tell us about your favourite Kabaddi moment?

RK: My first Asian game (2006), where we won the Gold medal and then in 2011, I received the Arjun Award, these two are my favourite Kabaddi moments. sports news headlines sports world

SL:  Apart from Kabaddi, what makes you happy?

RK: Worship is something that I always look forward. I always spend some time for prayers and worship.