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PKL 2021: Replacing Pardeep Narwal tough, but we have the depth: Patna vice-captain Neeraj

Patna Pirates vice-captain Neeraj Kumar talks to The Bridge about his retention and the upcoming season.

PKL 2021: Replacing Pardeep Narwal tough, but we have the depth: Patna vice-captain Neeraj

Abhijit Nair

Published: 16 Dec 2021 5:50 AM GMT

Undoubtedly the most successful team in the history of the Pro Kabaddi League, the Patna Pirates, have traditionally relied on their raiding prowess to assert their dominance in the league.

Ahead of the upcoming season of the PKL, the Pirates management made some fascinating decisions, including releasing star raider Pardeep Narwal and handing over the leadership duties to newcomer Prashanth Kumar Rai with Neeraj Kumar as his deputy.

Interestingly, Neeraj Kumar was the only defender retained by the Patna Pirates ahead of season 8. The Bridge caught up with the youngster for a chat about his retention and the upcoming season. Excerpts:

On his retention and appointment as the vice-captain

I am very happy and thankful to the team management for the retention. It was only after the retention and then being appointed the vice-captain that I realised the trust they have in me. It is a big responsibility. But, I have got some very experienced players by my side. I have learnt a lot from Prashanth bhai, Monu Goyat in the time we have spent together – that gives me good confidence. Moreover, I know my primary role would be to guide our defensive unit because we have others to look after the raiding aspect of things. This clarity makes it easy for me.

On the Pardeep Narwal void

Pardeep Narwal is a big player. I have played with him in past and the energy and confidence he brings is infectious. But, I feel we have got some good replacements. Be it Prashanth, Sachin Tanwar or Monu Goyat, we are pretty balanced. All our raiders are at the same level Pardeep is, and we have got some good bench strength. It is going to be difficult to replace Pardeep, but we have got the required players.

On the team environment

We have had multiple camps and all of us have gotten together well so far. There is a sense of unity in the team, which I think is a very big advantage for us. Even on the court, we have worked a lot on building our synergy and everything is going very smoothly for now.

On his personal goal

To be very honest, I do not have any personal goals. All I have in my mind is winning the title, and I cannot do it alone. My mantra is very simple – if the team goes far then I will too (chuckles).

On their head coach Ram Meher Singh

I am a lot better player than what I was during the previous season. Ram Meher sahab has helped me in improving in a lot of different areas and hopefully, it will show in my game. He is a former India captain, Arjuna awardee and has worked really hard behind the scenes for Patna Pirates.

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