The freedom to take decisions helped me in succeeding with Patna Pirates: Coach Ram Meher Singh
The head coach of PKL franchise Patna Pirates, Ram Meher Singh, reveals to The Bridge what makes them the most successful team in the league.
The Patna Pirates have undoubtedly been the most successful franchise in the short history of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL). While none of the teams have managed to win the title more than once, the Pirates asserted their dominance in the PKL clinching a hat trick of titles from the third to the fifth season.
It is no secret that for any franchise to be this successful, the main ingredient is trust. The trust between the team management and players and the coaches. Ram Meher Singh, the coach of the Patna Pirates, agrees that it is no different for the side he has been associated with since 2015.
"I came on board with the Patna Pirates in the second season as a mentor. We reached the semifinal then before winning the title thrice in a row. A lot of people say I have a near-perfect record in the PKL, but it is not just me. A lot of it boils down to the trust the management has in your abilities as a coach," Singh points out in a conversation with The Bridge.
He further breaks it down with a beautiful illustration of how defence forces, a place where he himself served during his prime years, work.
"It is much like how defence forces work. If you are heading a mission, you need a certain amount of freedom to take your own decisions and that freedom can only emerge from the trust. This freedom to make my own decisions is what makes me successful at the Patna Pirates," he states.
Ram Meher Singh is no stranger to receiving coaching offers from rival teams in the PKL. But, he always chose to stick with the Pirates – another of the countless things he explains with a defence analogy.
"One of the first things they teach you in defence is loyalty. I have received three or four offers from rival teams, but the loyalty I have towards Patna holds me back from accepting any of those. The second thing is, I doubt whether I would get the freedom to run the team in a way I want to if I join any other franchise," he chuckles.
A former captain of the Indian Kabaddi team, Ram Meher Singh, admits that coaching is a completely different ball game than just going out there and playing.
"A coach is only as good as the team. If your team performs well you are the best coach in the world, if they do not then no one asks about you. As a coach, you are responsible to provide answers – answers to the media, to the team management and to the players themselves. It is a lot more stressful than being a player knowing that you cannot control what is happening in the court."
While Ram Meher Singh does all the backroom work, the one name which had become synonymous with the Patna Pirates was Pardeep Narwal – a player who blossomed under Singh. However, things would be a bit different this time around with the 24-year-old Narwal all set to don the UP Yoddha's brown instead of the green.
"It was a tough decision to let Pardeep go. He wanted to be a part of the auction. He is a good kid, very confident, always obedient and so we granted him his wish. The ultimate plan was to buy him back using the Final Bid Match (FBM) card in the auction, but unfortunately, the Yoddha's predicted exactly what we thought of and increased their bid," he states.
The Pirates have always employed raid-centric tactics, led by the charismatic Narwal upfront – a ruthless aggressive approach which Ram Meher Singh is known for. But with Narwal not by Singh's side this time, will the Pirates be seen in the same avatar?
"Why not?" asks Singh.
"I believe we have got a fantastic raiding unit even without Pardeep. Everyone knows what Sachin Tanwar is capable of. We have the experience of Monu Goyat and Prashanth Kumar Rai. Guman Singh is itching for his opportunity in the starting seven. I do not see any reason why we would let go of that approach," he says as if issuing a warning to the rival teams.
While a good coach is integral to the success of any team, so is the need for a strong leader. The Pirates, for the upcoming season, announced a surprising name in Prashanth Kumar Rai – a player who has neither played for them before nor has any captaincy experience, as their skipper.
"Yes, he has not led in PKL before but it was just a matter of time. If you look at it, Prashanth is the senior-most player in our setup having played each season of PKL. He might not be a star attraction but he is sincere towards the game, works hard and has that quality to hold the team together. Even Pardeep for that matter was made the captain after he gained experience playing. For me, having Prashanth lead the side was a straightforward decision."
Ram Meher Singh agrees that Kabaddi has changed a lot from the time he used to play.
"When I led the Indian team in the Asian Games, it was a lot different. All of us worshipped the game. It has changed now, a lot of the youngsters coming through the ranks want to play just so that they would be seen on television. On the other hand, the advent of PKL has also helped in creating better opportunities for players across the globe. Change is the only constant they say, but I cannot really point out whether these changes are for the good or bad," he signs off.