The seventh season of the Pro Kabaddi League, better known as PKL, is all set to embark from July 20th with twelve teams- Bengaluru Bulls, Gujarat Fortune Giants, Bengal Warriors, Dabang Delhi K.C., Haryana Steelers, Jaipur Pink Panthers, Patna Pirates, Puneri Paltan, Tamil Thalaivas, Telugu Titans, UP Yoddhas, and U Mumba- battling out amongst themselves for the coveted crown.
Here we preview each team of the Pro Kabaddi League and discuss their strengths and weaknesses:
The defending champions reposed their faith in the trio of captain Rohit Kumar, Ashish Kumar Sangwan, and Pawan Kumar Sehrawat in the auctions. They also invested ₹80 lakh to buy Mahendar Singh and it remains to be seen if he can deliver. The lack of star raiders apart from Rohit and Pawan might hurt them and act as a barrier in retaining the title again.
Gujarat Fortune Giants
The runners-up in the previous season of PKL, Gujarat Fortune Giants, have a well-balanced side this season. The cover duo of Parvesh Bhainswal and Sunil Kumar was a huge success last season and they will have the services of Vinod Kumar to help them too. Ruturaj Koravi, GB More, and Iran’s Abolfazi Maghsoudlou’s addition might make help them go one step further.
Having reached the eliminator in season six, Bengal Warriors have improved leaps and bounds since finishing in the bottom of the pile at the fourth season of the Pro Kabaddi League. They retained Maninder Singh and released Jang Kun Lee and Surjeet Singh in the auction to buy Iran’s unheralded all-rounder Mohammad Esmaeil Nabibakhsh for a whopping ₹77.75 lakh and star raider K Prapanjan for ₹55.5 lakh. Their chances of repeating the previous seasons’ feat, however, remains bleak given their fragile defense.
Dabang Delhi K.C.
Having reached the playoffs for the first time in their short history, Dabang Delhi K.C. managed to retain their core in the auction of the Pro Kabaddi League. All eyes will be on their Iran’s star raider Meraj Sheykh, defender Joginder Narwal, and young prospect Naveen. The introduction of Ravinder Pahal, Vishal Mane, and Chandran Ranjit will further boost their ambitions.
After having a disastrous previous season where they performed miserably, Haryana Steelers have rejigged their squad. Having released the league’s costliest buy in the history, Monu Goyat, the Steelers have made some inroads by buying star raider Prashanth Kumar Rai for a staggering ₹77 lakh and shoring up the defense with the likes of Dharmaraj Chelathan and Vikas Kale.
Jaipur Pink Panthers
Like Dabang Delhi, Jaipur Pink Panthers went into the auction with the mantra of retaining the core players and improving their performance. They have raider Deepak Kumar Hooda and defender Sandeep Kumar Dhull in their arsenal along with rising star Ajinkya Pawar. With Amit Hooda and Deepak Narwal complementing the core this time, the Abhishek Bachchan-owned side looks a formidable team in this season of Pro Kabaddi League.
Patna Pirates failed to advance from the group stages of the tournament for the first time since the inception of Pro Kabaddi League last season. To right the wrong, they bought South Korea’s Jang Kun Lee, Iran’s Mohammad Maghsadlou and Surendar Nada. Having also retained the services of Pardeep Narwal, Vikas Jaglan, and Jawahar Dagar, Patna Pirates are one of the favorites to start the seventh season.
Puneri Paltan released most of their players in the build-up but retained Nitin Tomar, making him the second costliest boy, with an astounding figure of ₹1.2 crore. Darshan Kadian and Pawan Kumar Kadian will add further width to the raiding department but they lack the same in the defense. This might prevent the Maharashtra-based side from reaching the playoffs.
Tamil Thalaivas finished in the bottom of Zone B but performed smartly in the auction and now have one of the strongest sides on paper. They lodged a coup by buying Rahul Chaudhari for a justifiable ₹94 lakh. He will partner Ajay Chaudhari while raiding and the trio of Manjeet Chillar, Mohit Chillar, and Ran Singh will provide solidarity in the defense.
Telugu Titans made Siddharth Desai the 2nd costliest player in the seventh season of Pro Kabaddi League by buying him at a staggering price of ₹1.45 crore. The big names in the industry- Abozar Mighani, Vishal Bharadwaj, and Farhad Milagardhan- will help them further in their bid to win the title. However, the lack of an established secondary raider might jolt their plans.
UP Yoddhas started with a clean slate and profligated to acquire the services of Monu Goyat, Shrikant Jadhav, and Rishank Devadiga for ₹91 lakh, ₹68 lakh, and ₹61 lakh respectively. UP Yoddhas might make it to the playoffs once again and it remains to be seen if they can go all the way this time. The loss of veteran defender Jeeva Kumar to Bengal Warriors might hurt them, however.
The winners of the second season of Pro Kabaddi League, U Mumba, doesn’t have a side that looks ready to challenge for a spot in the playoffs. They might have two of the best defenders in the world- Fazel Atracheli and Sandeep Narwal- in their ranks but have no quality raider. With Siddharth Desai gone, the onus will be on the likes of Rohit Baliyan and Athul MS, both of whom yet to prove their worth in the big stage.