Utilizing his expertise and strategic insights to lead his team to success, Darshan Bata is the captain of the DOTA 2 team that is aiming to script history at the Asian Games 2022. At the age of 28, the Mumbai-born athlete, who is widely known by his in-game name 'A35', has already made a name for himself in the competitive scene, showcasing his top-notch gameplay and skillset in the game. As captain of his team, Darshan takes on the crucial role of leading his squad from the front, and his dedication to his craft is evident in his consistent pursuit of excellence.
With an impressive in-game ranking of Immortal, Darshan has proven his mastery of DOTA 2 mechanics. His CV includes winning the ESL India Premiership Fall Masters twice, Taiwan Excellence Gaming Cup, and IGE South Asia Cup Online in 2019. Within this interview, we will discuss with Darshan his journey in Dota 2 and how he became the captain of the Indian team in the Asian Games. As well as discuss his goals and ambition with this team within the tournament.
Bryan "Dracorexia" Francis, BLIX: My first question is, how has life been since you realized that you would be the captain of the Indian Dota 2 Team?
A35: My life has been largely unchanged, as we have been playing together as a team for many years. On the other hand, when I inform non-gamers that I am the captain of the Dota 2 Team, it is a significant moment for them. They say, "You're the captain, and I'm so happy for you." I have been playing for many years, ranging from 4 to 5 years, and I have been the captain of a team before, so I am accustomed to being the captain. I believe being the captain is a great responsibility, as you must maintain control over all the players and guide them in the correct direction.
BLIX: In a few words, please describe your introduction to the game and the start of your journey.
A35: I began playing Dota in school when I was twelve or thirteen years old. We used to play a variety of games at the time. However, I noticed a certain individual frequently at Cyber Cafe. This individual was playing Dota, and I found it to be very attractive. I fell in love with the game and continued to play it for many years. After four to five years of playing, I pursued a professional career in this game. At the time, there were no major tournaments taking place, only small tournaments. Therefore, I decided to play the game side-by-side with my college, and the rest is history. This was in 2012 when the first few small tournaments were held in colleges or cyber cafes, where the prize money was between 20,000 and 30,000 rupees.
BLIX: You have been a part of the Indian Esports scene since 2014; what are some of the changes you are happy and unhappy about now, nine years later?
A35: In the past, there were not many people interested in Electronic Sports. However, nowadays, many sports titles have become popular in India, and people can make a living from them. It is gratifying to note that Esports has evolved significantly over the years, and I am disappointed that the popularity of Dota 2 has decreased in India. It was very popular in the past, but now, the people who previously used to play the game are the only ones continuing to do so. It is important to note that the learning curve for Dota 2 is very steep, and it can take up to six or seven months to understand the game, after which there is no guarantee that the player will become proficient. Therefore, I believe this is the primary reason why people are not playing the game.
BLIX: As a captain, how did you decide which players to take on this journey to the upcoming Asian Games?
A35: The game consists of five roles, three of which are core-based and two of which are support-based. Based on this, it was estimated that two or three of the players were already on the team. Subsequently, other players who were proficient in the role were chosen to join the team. From this, the best players were selected, and a team was assembled to compete in the Asian Games. These players were selected based on their in-game skill and their ability to communicate effectively with their teammates, as communication is a key factor in the game.
BLIX: 3 players from your team recently secured bronze in the Commonwealth Games. Does that make you feel more secure about the mentality these players bring to the team?
A35: The three players have achieved a great deal of success in the international team, which has undoubtedly instilled confidence in the rest of the squad. It is expected that they will bring with them the experience of playing on such a large stage, which will not cause nervousness among other players. It is important to note that several players will perform well online; however, when it comes to tournaments and in front of spectators, they will not perform as well as they have in the past. Therefore, it is expected that playing alongside such experienced players will bring a greater level of confidence to the team.
BLIX: Team India lost to Nepal in the qualifiers for the Asian Games 2-0. Do you remember how you felt after the game, and did it somehow motivate your team to work harder?
A35: After the match, we analyzed our replays, and then we realized and accepted our mistakes. The loss against Nepal has motivated us to come back stronger for the Main Event. It doesn't matter if you are a captain or not. You know, when you are watching replays, it's a collective effort. So, you have to take into account the opinions of the players, and then you have to come up with a result.
Also, mentality plays a big role because if there's a game that's a best of 3 series. Having the mindset that losing the first game of a best-of-3 match means you will also lose the second game will not help you to make it to the Main Event. You know that you need to have a strong mentality to play in tournaments.
BLIX: From your 9-year Esports journey, what pointers would you like to share with the younger players who want to go professional within India?
A35: Firstly, it is not advisable to abandon one's education and studies if they are pursuing Esports, as they should be pursued side by side. If one is highly skilled in the game, one should not be discouraged from pursuing gaming, as there are several facilities available in India that are currently expanding and are expected to reach a large scale shortly. However, it is important to note that the scene in India is still developing and needs to be adequately prepared. Therefore, it is advisable to have a backup plan in place.
BLIX: Could you share your daily routine as you prepare yourself and your team for the Main stage of the Asian Games?
A35: At present, our three players are working. I am working, and two other players are also working. On a typical day, we have approximately 4 to 5 hours of free time, with two hours dedicated to team practice, two hours to solo practice, and one hour dedicated to replays and game analysis. Solo queuing assists in familiarizing oneself with the game's mechanics. If you only play Team games, you will not gain any experience. In solo mode, if there is a new element in the game and others are attempting it, you will need to stay up to date with that as well.
BLIX: Looking at the upcoming tournament, what are some of the major goals you would like to accomplish during this tournament while representing your nation? Is there any team you would like to face off against, and will it be a big deal for you?
A35: This is undoubtedly one of the most prestigious tournaments we will participate in. However, we have already competed in international tournaments before this. I do not believe that our players are overly experienced, as most of us have been playing for over a decade. Therefore, for us, this tournament is similar to any other. The primary objective is to win a medal for the country of India, and I am confident that we will achieve this goal. We are training intensively and striving to do our utmost, and I am sure that we will do very well in the tournament. I believe that the entire Chinese team is among the best, as they have All-Stars on their squad, and I am looking forward to playing against the Chinese team.
I believe that playing against your idols is a very important experience, as we have, over the years, looked up to many of these players, and now we are playing against Them. It is similar to playing football against Lionel Messi or Ronaldo.
BLIX: Do you have anything you would like to share with the Indian fans of Dota as well as the Indian Gaming Community?
A35: I'd like to thank them for supporting us all this time, and I would like them to support us for the Asian Games and all the upcoming tournaments in the future. And I would like to thank them for playing Dota 2 for so long. We will make sure to play our best during the Asian games and prove that India can be a superpower in the Esports scene.