India’s star wrestler Bajrang Punia has been time and again criticized for his leg defence. But recently his coach Sujeet Maan has broken that myth by sharing how his attacking style makes him look vulnerable with his leg defence. Punia’s personal coach feels that if he converts those attacking moves into points, he will be alright.
The Olympic bronze medallist’s leg defence has been a major talking point for fans and critics all over the globe for the last three years or so. It ws more noticed because of the buildup to the Tokyo Olympics where he braved an injury to win the bronze medal.
Bajrang’s struggle against Japanese grappler Takuto Otoguro meant that the problem was highlighted even more by people. Bajrang’s coach Shako Bentinidis also worked on the same issue but the Indian wrestler hardly made any progress. The situation created a rift between the Georgian coach and the Indian federation as Bentinidis was removed from his support staff. Sujeet Maan who started working with Bajrang Punia only from this January has suggested that his leg defence is not as bad as people thought it to be.
“A lot of people opine that his leg defence is weak but that’s not the case. It’s a style. In cricket, the aggressive batters go for their shots and in the process, they run the risk of losing their wicket. In Bajrang’s case when he plays an attacking game, he appears vulnerable in his leg defence,” Maan told PTI in an interview. “It’s not that we are not working on his leg defence. We are trying that even if the rivals get hold of his legs, he wriggles out of it with solid defence.”
Sujeet Maan agrees that training and competition in the early days might be a reason for the leg defence issue that Bajrang Punia is facing. “On the mat, you need to compete more on low and middle stance while in the Dangal, the wrestler maintains high stance. Habits are difficult to change, especially when it becomes muscle memory.” Maan has been with the national camp and has watched Bajrang Punia several times. He and Bajrang recently watched videos and did analysis of where they can improve. Maan feels that adding more aggression to Bajrang’s game will help him reduce the vulnerability to that leg defence.
“He needs to be aggressive and attack more. Attack is the best defence. The change he needs to make is he should attack but must not end up losing points or fail to score despite taking the risk. “If he is managing to grab legs of his opponent, he must convert that move into points, that’s what we are working on,” Maan concluded.