With his star raider K. Selvamani forced to sit out due to injury, Jaipur Pink Panthers coach Balwan Singh has asserted that fitness will be a challenge for all the teams in the ongoing season of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL).
Balwan, who guided the Indian team to the World Cup title last year, is considered to be among the finest Kabaddi coaches in the country.
Even before the start of the current PKL season, it was being felt that the organisers and teams will face two kinds of challenges. One was to prevent boredom and keep the fans engaged over the course of the extended duration of the tournament which has now been stretched to more than three months.
But observing the exciting start that the tournament has enjoyed, it seems that retaining fans' interest will perhaps not be an issue.
The second problem, however, could be more difficult to deal with. Thanks to the longer duration of the league, players are having to cope with a tougher work load and are at a greater risk of picking up injuries. The injury to Selvamani has dealt a setback to Jaipur and is a warning for the other teams as well.
The performance of every team revolves around a core group of 3-4 players. In the case of Jaipur, Selvamani is one of the key players along with skipper Manjeet Chillar and former captain Jasbir Singh.
With Selvamani out injured, even an experienced coach like Balwan Singh is worried about Jaipur's chances in the upcoming matches.
"This a big worry for us. Selvamani's injury is quite serious. The full extent of the injury of the injury will only be known after an MRI. Right now all I can say is that he will not be able to play in the upcoming matches. He is a crucial player for us. His absence will hurt us," Balwan told IANS here.
"Fitness will be the biggest challenge of this tournament. The fitness of the big players will be a particular cause of concern for all teams. In Jaipur's case, we have lost a player who cost us Rs 70 crore. The entire balance of the team has been affected.
"Every team is facing the same problem. All teams chalk out their strategies keeping their crucial players in mind. If even one of them is injured, it throws the entire planning out of gear," he added.
However, although the longer duration of the current PKL season is putting a lot of strain on the players, it also has a lot of gaps between matches, unlike the previous editions.
"One of the positive aspects of this season is the long gap between matches. We will play our next match after 10 days. A player can recover from injuries during this time provided his injury is not too serious," Balwan said.
"Earlier, there wasn't too much of a gap between matches. But that is not the case this year. So although a longer duration of the season puts a more physical strain on the players, it also provides an opportunity to recover."