Two -time winner Indian women's team will take on Chinese Taipei on 2 October in their opener.
Armed with four strong raiders and a new-look outfit, former champions U Mumba are geared up for season 5 of the extended Pro Kabaddi League commencing later this month.
The outfit, led by ace Anup Kumar who has stayed with the Mumbai franchise along with Shabeer Bappu, has undergone its pre-season high-altitude training stint in Dehradun under coach E Bhaskaran.
“The morale of the defence is always high when the raiders are strong. We have four strong raiders who will allow the defence to take risks and go for the kill during each of the opponent's raid,” said Bhaskaran ahead of the season's start.
“I feel every team this season has good raiders, including us. We worked on a strategy and managed to achieve exactly what we wanted in the auction,” he explained further.
On the team composition he said, “From the 136 players that were a part of the New Young Players (NYP) Camp this year, the three we selected are within the top 20. We chose defenders because we always need back up for defence, especially for such a long season. They are very energetic, have played in the junior, senior nationals as well as the Federation Cup, so come with some experience under their belt.
“Barring Anup and Shabeer, all the remaining players are new to the team. Joginder (Narwal) and Suresh (Kumar) come with a lot of experience. Kuldeep is an excellent all-rounder who can destroy a raider.
“Hadi (Oshtorak) as a corner is also very strong. So I cant really comment on who is the strongest as each of them come with a strong, different skill set.”
“We will definitely benefit from being amongst the most successful teams in the league. U Mumba is known for its player selection, training, team management and overall functioning,” he said further.
Although U Mumba failed to make the play-offs in season four and finished fifth overall, Bhaskaran was full of praise for 'Captain Cool', Anup Kumar.
“Anup has led the team ever since U Mumba came into existence.. He has a very different reputation among the teams and players – he is an iconic figure in international kabaddi now. His nickname, 'Captain Cool', also describes how well he copes with pressure and is calm and collective in even the most stressful of situations on the mat.”
“He leads the team exceedingly well. Other than that, he has also been a great raider through the seasons which is an added advantage for us. Having a good captain is very important especially when the players keep changing due to auctions. Given his experience, he plays a key role in grooming the youngsters in our side as well,” he added.
On player fitness during the extended season, Bhaskaran said, “Yes, the season is longer but the good thing is that the recovery period after each match has also significantly increased so it works well. There is time to recover and then concentrate on training again.
“Our 20-day fitness camp held in Dehradun was precisely for this reason too. We wanted to ensure that the players are physically fit to go through this long season. Choosing a high altitude destination was also to build their stamina and increase endurance for the league.”