Pro Kabaddi League: An in-depth look at strengths, weaknesses and preparation of all 12 teams ahead of sixth season
Here's a detailed look at all 12 teams' stengths' weaknesses and their preparation for season six of Pro kabaddi League 2018
The stage is set for the sixth edition of the Pro Kabaddi League with Tamil Thalaivas taking on defending champion Patna Pirates in the opener at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indooor stadium in Chennai on Sunday.
In the other match on the opening day, Puneri Paltan will clash with U Mumba.
Patna Pirates, winner of the last three editions starts as the favourites, while Gujarat Fortunegiants, Bengal Warriors, Puneri Paltan and Jaipur Pink Panthers will be among the sides aiming to dethrone the champion.
Patna Pirates captain Pardeep Narwal said the team had prepared well for the new season and aimed to win the title again.
"This season I have worked on multiple strategic moves to counter our opponents. For Patna Pirates, one of the most challenging teams we believe is Puneri Paltan because their defence is very strong. I look forward to the season and I am going to take the trophy home this time," he added.
Meanwhile, Tamil Thalaivas after a poor outing in PKL-5, is primed for a good show. Captain Ajay Thakur said the team had a nice balance and can be expected to challenge the other outfits.
"In the previous season our team composition was heavy on youngsters. So, if it happened that I was not on the mat, taking instant decisions was tough.
This year, the team has a perfect balance of young and experienced players, we have Manjeet Chillar, Jasvir Singh and Sukesh Hegde who can take phenomenal decisions at the spur of the moment during the match," he added.
UP Yoddha captain Rishank Devadiga said with an extended season the focus would be on fitness as the league has been extended to three months.
"Earlier the season was shorter, and the chances of injury were higher as players prove their mettle on the mat each day. With a 3-month long league, there is enough break period for players to rest and recuperate.
The challenge in a longer league is the maintain a certain level of fitness consistently which is what we at UP Yoddhas are training for," he added.
Gujarat Fortunegiants coach Manpreet Singh said the players had trained well and were looking to go one better and win the trophy this time.
"The players have had good preparation. We don't have star players but we have enough quality to do well," he added.
After the league matches, the play-offs will be held in Kochi and the finale will be held in Mumbai on 5 January, 2019.
With teams learning their lessons from last season, expect season six of PKL to be one of the most competitive one so far. As the start of the season nears, here's a detailed analysis of all 12 teams competing for the crown.
The squad that Dabang Delhi have put together is full of players that mirror the franchise's current state. The Delhi outfit is desperate to end the streak of league stage exits. Similarly, the leading stars in the current side have a task on their hands to regain their elite status in the league after below-par campaigns in the past.
Gujarat Fortunegiants' transition from newcomers to surprise package to overwhelming favourites in the finals was as quick as some of their lightning quick defensive moves that gave opposition raiders a tough time in the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) last season. A team full of unheralded young talent surprised one opponent after another with their intensity and no team could quite get the measure of them.
With a large number of players from previous season retained or re-signed, there's extra motivation among the squad to right the wrongs of that final against Patna Pirates
Haryana Steelers grabbed all the headlines as they bought Monu Goyat for a record-shattering fee of Rs 1.51 crore. The Patna Pirates star who had excelled in the shadow of Pardeep surprisingly became the most expensive kabaddi player ever.
Apart from Goyat, the Sonipat-based outfit did extremely well to regain the services of captain Surender Nada, and raiders Wazir Singh and Vikash Khandola who were among the top performers last season
Jaipur Pink Panthers
Jaipur once again have enough talent to take the team to another final, but with few players struggling with form, fitness or confidence, the calming influence of Anup will be crucial to their chances.
The responsibility of getting the best out the likes of Hooda, Selvamani, Chhillar, who are match-winners on their day, will rest on the able shoulders of the former U Mumba man
Puneri Paltan have carried an aura of champions at many points in the previous three seasons of Pro Kabaddi, but haven't been able to deliver the goods when it matters the most. Two third-place finishes followed by fourth place last season, showcases the franchise's agonising journey in recent campaigns.
As season six approaches, the Puneri Paltan side, once again, look very formidable on the paper. Few would bet against the Lions reaching the playoffs
With a fresh start in mind, U Mumba didn't retain any of its previous players before the auction. They set the auctions on fire after purchasing Iranian captain Fazel Atrachali for Rs 1 crore. Atrachali wasn't the only Iranian recruit. His teammates Hadi Tajik and Abolfazl Maghsodloumahali were also taken aboard.
Dharmaraj Cheralathan was the other notable purchase made by U Mumba to further shore up their defence.
The Bengal Warriors have slowly built a squad that few in the league can claim to match in terms of quality, experience and depth. It may have taken longer to come, but the Kolkata outfit is certainly in elite company and few would be debating their favourites tag.
The Warriors retained captain Surjeet Singh and star raider, Maninder Singh, ahead of the auctions and made a conscious effort to re-sign majority of their old players.
Bengaluru Bulls' efforts to force themselves into title contention have fallen short in the last few seasons. The current team appears to be their best bet since season two, but even their best in recent times might not guarantee them a shot at playing the final, especially if it requires coming out of a highly competitive Zone B.
Patna Pirates go again! Their incredible reign as defending champions of Pro Kabaddi is set to enter another intriguing chapter, a third one to be precise. In these three years, players have come and gone, coaches have been moved on, but Pirates have managed to find a winning formula.
Patna's time at the pinnacle of the competition coincided with the arrival of a young, sprightly raider that took the league by storm in a matter of weeks and never looked back again. Three years hence, Pardeep Narwal – now a household name in the sport – is inching ever closer to becoming the league's most successful raider and has been the magical element in Patna's success that no team in the league has come to terms with.
Tamil Thalaivas will look to make a fresh start under Bhaskaran this season, and the team's strength in depth bodes well for a real challenge for the top honour. After a year in disarray, Tamil Thalaivas are gearing up for a big jump. Watch out!
With a change in coaching staff and few big purchases, Telugu Titans hope to have assembled a winning machine that draws its energy from Rahul Chaudhari's relentless raiding exploits.
It will be no surprise to see Chaudhari on top of the scoring charts again this season, but the onus is now on the improved Telugu Titans to make their captain's efforts count.
UP Yoddha are by no means a star-studded team, but on their day have the potential to be world beaters. After a solid debut, UP Yoddha have made silent progress. Those underestimating the Devadiga-led side are surely in for a surprise.
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Firstpost spoke to a host of players and coaches to understand why succeeding at home is such a difficult ask on the mat of Pro Kabaddi. Here is the list of factors that affect performances of teams on home patch.