After PKL auctions, team UP Yoddha would have harbored hopes of another successful season, and bringing in 'record-breaker' Pardeep Narwal, would have only doubled the expectations. But contrary to hopes and expectations after six matches Yoddha are languishing at the ninth spot in the points table.
The pressure on coach Jasveer Singh's face during the match is palpable; a team that had made it to the playoffs in every season they participated in, is struggling against some of the weaker teams in the competition as well. One could say that the form of Pardeep is the biggest concern, but the coach thinks otherwise. In an exclusive interaction with SportsCafe, coach Jasveer said that inexperience in the defensive unit is causing a few problems in the team.
"As a coach, if I look at the overall performance of the team, I am not that happy with the results. The kind of preparation we had done for the tournament, we should have been able to get in better performances. We had a camp of about two months, and some of them had been training with us for over a year at the academy as well; but since most of the boys are young, we are committing a few errors in the defense. They will only get better as the tournament progresses," Jasveer said.
Nitesh Kumar, the skipper of the team is their main defender along with Sumit, and the duo has 24 tackle points combined in 6 matches. While this is low by their own high standards, coach Jasveer reveals that it is Nitesh's job to be less aggressive, and make sure he spends as much time on the mat as possible. A role somewhat similar to what Rohit Kumar has been doing for Telugu Titans -- the raider has six points from five matches.
"If we look at the team, Nitesh is the most experienced defender and has played four seasons before this one as well. Since he is the captain as well, it is us who want him to go a little slow, since the leader should be on the mat at most times. Although he is naturally an aggressive defender who likes to go for advanced tackles, but we don't want a situation where our most experienced man is not there on the mat. Hence, less tackle points."
In a somewhat dull season so far, raider Surender Gill has emerged as the bright spark. Apart from his raiding duties, the lanky player can be seen assisting the team in tackles or affecting a few of them himself. And he has so far gotten more points than Pardeep, which could be a big boost to his confidence.
"I think in the tournament, it is very necessary to have the raiders be decent in defense as well. We have Surender Gill and Rohit Tomar, who can be decent in both raiding and tackling. That helps us a lot. In fact, we have been working on this bit with Gill for a year now. So we need two raiders at all times, who can chip in with the defense as well, to maintain team balance.
"On the other hand, Pardeep has played okay so far. He has had some niggles, and hasn't shown the speed, he is famous for. It would be wrong to write him off already, and in my opinion, should make a strong comeback in the coming matches. All the teams have been targeting him, and that ploy has worked so far. We need to tighten our defense, and Pardeep will spend more time on the mat," the coach concluded.