Junior girls make sure state title comes to Pune district
Pune: With the absence of senior players Deepika Joseph, Sayali Keripale and Snehal Shinde, it was a big task for Pune district to claim the title, and they achieved it on the back of performances of junior players. Pune team defeated Mumbai City 22-20 to lift the title in the 67th Maharashtra state kabaddi championship at Chiplun Ratnagiri.
The team had only two senior players, Ankita Jagtap and Pooja Shelar, while the rest were juniors.
“Three big players were missing, so we had picked new players in the team of 12. The junior players had always delivered strong performance in their category, so we knew they will deliver good,” said Bharat Shilamkar, coach of Pune women’s team.
Shilamkar with 20 years of experience in coaching first focussed on setting up cover positions in the camp held at Nehru stadium ahead of the championship held at December 19-22.
“The team displayed commendable coordination and senior players equally supported them, so it made my job easy,” added Shilamkar.
Pune team started their campaign with an easy win in the group stages. First they defeated Sangli 54-17 in the first group match followed by massive 43-3 win over Sindhudurg.
“We picked best seven for every match and I kept rotating players so most of the players got a chance to play,” said Shilamkar.
In the quarter-finals, Pune defeated Kolhapur 47-22.
“Pune team easily scored victories in the first three matches. Defenders and raiders did their job. Our all-rounder players gave us an edge over other teams,” Shilamkar said.
Mumbai Suburbs has always been a formidable side for Pune in the past, but the local team scored a 34-26 win over arch-rivals to enter the final.
“Suburbs (Mumbai) have very good players so I was worried ahead of the match, but our girls dominated in the match right from the start. Our team (Pune) took the lead right from start and kept it till the end. After defeating Suburbs, the team was filled with confidence and they played with a lot of grit to tame Mumbai city in the final,” Shilamkar said.
In the last 13 years, Pune has claimed 12 state titles, In 2016, Mumbai Suburbs had defeated Pune in the finals.
Pooja Shelar, senior player
As a senior player, I told the team that we (Pune) have a history of performing best at state championship. So, even if senior players are not there in our team, we will still aim for the title