12th January, 2016, Pune:
The mood around the U Mumba camp has been filled with confidence and optimism especially after a thrilling comeback win against Bengaluru Bulls, where UMumba grabbed a single point lead in the final 30 seconds of the match. Coach E Bhaskaran believes that the win was needed to boost the morale of the team with key players out on national duty. "We made a few mistakes in the first half of that game which we corrected in the second half. It was an exceptional performance from the players to get the win. Our coordination was an aspect that we worked on during practice which paid off towards the end."
The match also saw the debuts of Hadi Tajik and Abol Fazl, the two Iranians besides the impressive Fazel Atrachali who made his mark in the U Mumba defence. While the core players from the side will not be back until the following leg of the league, the coach believes that the squad has enough depth to tackle the likes of Manjeet Chhillar, Ajay Thakur, Nilesh Shinde and Nitin Tomar in the next two matches. "Our raiders Shabeer and Rishank have been working hard on their game over the past few days. Fazel has also been training very hard on making the right tackles which is important. All our players are equally good but it depends on who has better coordination with the players."
The Maharashtra Derby will see Pune captain Manjeet Chhillar come up against a well known colleague in Rakesh Kumar as the latter will take the reins in the absence of captain Anup Kumar. It promises to be an interesting battle because of Manjeet's dominating presence on the court and Ajay Thakur's fleet footedness against the likes of Jeeva Kumar and Bhupender Singh, the latter making an impact in defence in the last game.
Against Bengal Warriors, the coach believes that breaking the chemistry of such a well balanced side will prove to be key in U Mumba winning this crucial tie. "The defence of a team gains confidence from how well their raiders perform. If we can ensure that their raiders don't take points back, their defence can also crack of which we can take advantage."
U Mumba play Puneri Paltan on the 13th of February while they take on Bengal Warriors on the 14th of February, both at the Balewadi Sports Complex.