The fifth edition of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) will be a 12-member strong tournament and is slated to take place over a period of thirteen weeks.
During the auction, the time duration of the league was a major factor that decided the purchase strategy of each team. Hence, it doesn't come as a surprise that all the teams chose to spend on young players. The 12 teams have a heady mix of experience and youth, with some teams favouring the former and others banking on the latter.
Here's a list of the brightest young prospects in the upcoming PKL who could potentially be future stars for their franchise and the country if everything falls in place.
Anand Patil - Dabang Delhi
Anand Patil is just 21 and has never played in the PKL before. He will have his task cut out as he is now a part of the team that's never reached the business end of the league.
Dabang Delhi have had a horrendous four seasons in spite of showing glimpses of what they can do on their day. The team always had the big names but those names have never stayed long enough over the period of the four seasons. This time around, the team decided to invest in youngsters who they hope will add value to their campaign.
A major part of their plan hinged on the acquisition of an untested Patil. He might be unfamiliar with the glitz and glamour of the much-anticipated league, but the head coach of Dabang Delhi, Ramesh Bhendigri holds him in high regard.
Patil was recently awarded the best raider in the Industrial National Championship. A tournament that saw the likes of star raiders Nitin Tomar and Rakesh Kumar. The fact that Patil shone brighter than these talents stands testament to the coach's claims that this youngster is an exceptional talent who figures in the map charted by Dabang Delhi for better results in the coming season.
Kuldeep Singh - U-Mumba
U-Mumba was the team with the loosest purse-strings in this year's auction. They spent close to Rs 4 crore to buy nine players in this edition.
The team which won the PKL in Season 2 and have been finalists in other two seasons, chose to spend maximum on young all-rounder Kuldeep Singh. The 25-year-old walks into a resurgent U-Mumba team after playing an integral part in the championship journey of Patna Pirates in the last two seasons. Kuldeep will make it into the starting seven on the might of his 82 raid points and 43 tackle points from his 39 matches in the tournament so far.
It would be a worthwhile watch to see if Kuldeep can usher in a change of fortunes for the U-Mumba team and add a third championship title to his name.
Sachin - Gujarat Fortunegiants
Gujarat shot into prominence after hosting the successful 2016 Kabaddi World Cup in Ahmedabad. Now, they have broadened their Kabaddi ambitions by becoming the newest part of the PKL.
The Fortunegiants filled their squad with young blood in a strategy that was similar to the newer teams and certain older teams. With the longer duration of the season weighing heavily on their minds, the investment was focused on players who could deliver for the entire stretch of the season.
The Gujarat-based team comprises young players who have been gold medallists at the junior level and one of their smartest signings was the captain of the junior Indian Kabaddi team, Sachin.
In addition to Sachin's ability and talent, his level of exposure at the international level works in his favour but adds pressure on the youngster to deliver consistently.
It would do good for the 18-year-old raider to create a niche for himself and stand out from the overbearing shadow of the weight his name carries in the sporting world.
Sarang Arun Deshmukh - Tamil Thalaivas
Fifteen out of the 25 members of the Tamil Thalaivas squad are under the age of 25 and the 19-year-old raider Sarang Arun Deshmukh is one of the youngest.
Sarang's towering height makes his reach a bit more effective and is a major strength of the West Zone gold medallist. The boy from Nagpur seems to share an uncanny resemblance with his idol and team captain Ajay Thakur in terms of his physique and style of play.
Tamil Thalaivas would be looking to bank on his ability and special skills to help them out of a tight corner when the time comes in this long and arduous season. It will also be interesting to see if Sarang will get to play in front of his home crowd of Nagpur which is now the makeshift home for Bengaluru Bulls.
Umesh Mhatre - Puneri Paltan
After a disastrous start in the PKL, the Paltans bounced back with two third-place finishes in the last two seasons.
The Puneri Paltans have undergone a major revamp in their squad this season. They only retained the 23-year-old Deepak Hooda and expect the franchise's highest scoring raider to rally around a team that had to let go of some of the biggest names in the league.
The team would hope some of the younger raiders step up to the challenge and prove their standing in the squad. One of the youngsters that the coach and management seem to notice a lot of potential in is Umesh Mhatre.
Though Mhatre had very few chances to play in the last season, he proved to be eye-catching and effective in those matches. His exploits in the National championships and other domestic competitions has piqued the interest of the team management who consider him to be a very important player in their scheme of things.
Being a part of such a high-profile league and lucrative franchises has its share of perks and aura.
However, those are not the only things that matter. The team's (coaching staff and management) have imposed the trust on these young talents and hope they would deliver when the time comes.
It is this trust by a team that acts as the biggest motivator for a young player trying to find his feet in the world or in this instance, on a floor mat.
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Updated Date: Jul 27, 2017 21:13:37 IST