Todak begins road to recovery
Just days before the end of Ramadan, Todak, once regarded as the rising star in the local and regional MLBB scene, announced that they were releasing their full roster. What was supposedly a time of celebration was cast a cloud over the future of the players and the organisation.
In 2019, Todak seemingly came out of nowhere and stomped to second place at MPL-MY/SG Season 4. They subsequently represented Malaysia at the MLBB World Championship M1, and came in a highly respectable third, finishing just behind Indonesian powerhouses EVOS Legends and RRQ.
However, the team struggled in the new decade. Participating in MPL-MY/SG Season 5 with an unchanged squad, they performed poorly and looked out of sorts throughout the season.
They showed improvement at the Playoffs but failed to rediscover their form. Two weeks later, they announced the team's dissolution in a Facebook post.
With deep sadness in his voice, Ashi, the Todak MLBB manager, shared that the decision to disband the MPL-MY/SG Season 5 roster was made because they wanted to restructure their line-up. "At the same time, the management had to let the players know that we didn't achieve good results; the players failed to meet expectations."
Importantly, the existing roster had to undergo a new selection process to "rejoin" the team.
For Ashi, the most difficult aspect of this decision was evaluating the players and deciding which players would still bear the Todak banners. "There will be players who will earn back their place on the team, and there will be those we will let go completely. We are all friends, but as the manager, I have to determine what's best for the team. A change was needed."
But could this scenario have been avoided if Todak made roster changes before Season 5 began? After all, they were the only invited team who kept their full line-up from Season 4.
"It wasn't a mistake [to keep the roster], because why fix something if it isn't broken?" Ashi replied. "Our players were at the top of their game before the season started - we were the best in Malaysia. Naturally, we hoped that maintaining stability and the existing team chemistry would enable the players to keep up the momentum and achieve greater results.
Though they did have high hopes, Todak struggled to get wins under the belt. Attributing the team's failure to themselves rather than external factors, Ashi maintained that it wasn't because the meta shifted or that other teams' gameplays changed. For him, a good team should be able to adapt to these. Rather, "I think we were overconfident. We didn't realise that other teams were working hard and improving rapidly."
Ashi maintained that despite the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang competitive scene taking a break due to COVID-19, the organisation isn't calling it quits. "There is no intention to leave the competitive arena. Todak will continue to 'langgar' (Bahasa Malaysia for crash into) other teams."
On 24 May, Todak announced that Ciku, Moon, Eone and Xray would be reinstated to the first-time, whereas Nenas and Lychee will be leaving officially leaving the organisation. Ciku will also take over the captain mantle from Moon.
Days later, the organisation announced an open recruitment drive to fill the final two spots.
As of the time of writing, Ashi has revealed that they have received more than 600 applications - a testament to the MLBB competitive scene, as well as Todak's popularity. "We are now in the process of narrowing this pool of players to a 20-name shortlist. From there, we will organise try-out sessions to find the right fit." Estimating that this process will take about three to four weeks, Ashi has called for patience as they seek to build the strongest possible MLBB team.
The past few weeks have been a roller coaster for the organisation and there's still a long road ahead. As a relatively fresh manager himself, Ashi shared that the biggest lesson he learnt throughout this turbulent period is that his role is to groom a player to reach his potential. "To help a player grow, one must be patient because each player is unique; they have different personalities and habits. I might need to be harder on some players, but gentler on others. People are complex and we need to unlock their capabilities."
"Managers also ought to be professional. That means in our relationship with the company and players, we must be fair. Someone once told me that to be a successful team manager, I must be responsible to both the organisation and the players. Both parties have expectations and needs; it's my job to hold them both together as best as I can."
The MLBB esports scene is entering a lull period due to the cancellation of the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Southeast Asia Cup (MSC), but Ashi is planning ahead. "We have a vision and road map to help this team become better and give our fans a good showing in upcoming tournaments. We are sorry to Todak fans who have supported us through the highs and lows. Please continue cheering for us and wait for future updates as we reveal our new roster."
There is time for Todak to begin their rebuilding process and it is hoped that shaking things up will be the catalyst for a strong showing in the second half of the year. One question remains: will Todak rediscover the hunger and passion which led them to two top-three placings at both MPL-MY/SG Season 4 and the M1 World Championship last year?