NAVI star Aleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev has confirmed that Denis ‘electroNic’ Sharipov has taken over as the team’s new in-game leader ahead of the BLAST Premier Spring Final.
The confirmation comes just two weeks after Dexerto revealed that NAVI were considering handing the team’s reins over to electroNic following the removal of Kirill ‘Boombl4’ Mikhailov from the starting lineup.
electroNic will have his first big test as the team’s IGL at the BLAST Premier Spring Final, which NAVI are attending with former Spirit player Viktor ‘sdy’ Orudzhev as a stand-in.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference during media day, s1mple stated that electroNic should perform well in the role of in-game leader given his extensive knowledge of the game. He also noted that the team will stick to the system that has been in place for years.
“We still have our old setups, we only changed some roles,” s1mple said. “I think electroNic has more ideas [than Boombl4], and his understanding of the game without B1ad3’s help is much better.
“But Boombl4 worked with B1ad3 for so many hours and B1ad3 taught him so many things that electroNic doesn’t now. So he needs a bit more time.”
With a stand-in that hasn’t played at the highest level in months and a new in-game leader still getting used to the role, NAVI have an uphill task to repeat their grand final appearance from BLAST Pro Series Lisbon 2018.
s1mple revealed that the team had just a week’s practice for this event, which he hopes is enough for them to reach the playoffs. “I’m pretty sure the crowd will cheer for NAVI and we will try to win if we make it there.”
Future fifth player
NAVI’s lineup beyond the BLAST Premier Spring Final is uncertain as the team will be using this event as a measuring stick for the lineup with sdy. According to s1mple, the former Spirit player is “doing a great job in practice”, but they still need to see how he performs in important games – which will determine whether he stays on with the squad.
One player who has been earmarked as a potential replacement for Boombl4 is Virtus.pro’s Timur ‘buster’ Tulepov. But one stumbling block to a move for the Kazakhstani player is the fact that NAVI are unwilling to conduct business with Virtus.pro, a Russian organization with alleged ties to the Kremlin.
This means that buster would have to figure out a way to be released from his contract, though Virtus.pro have made it clear that they will not let any of their players leave “unless a proper fee is paid”.
“I’ve never played with him,” s1mple said of buster. “Perfecto knows him better. The main issue is that NAVI cannot buy a player from a Russian organization because Virtus.pro pays taxes and we know what it means to pay taxes.
“We asked buster at the beginning if he could buy himself out of his contract. We’re still deciding who will play [at IEM Cologne].”