Pro Kabaddi League Auction Grades: Tamil Thalaivas, Jaipur Pink Panthers top the chart, U Mumba falter after early promise

The 2018 Pro Kabaddi League Player Auctions was expected to be path-breaking for the sport, and so they were. The two-day affair ended with six players getting sold for a sum of Rs 1 crore or more. Monu Goyat became the most expensive non-cricketing Indian sportsman after attracting a price of Rs 1.51 crore. Iranian corner defender Fazel Atrachali was the costliest overseas star having gone for a price of Rs 1 crore.

In all, Rs 45.93 crore was spent across the two days, as the 12 franchises bought 181 players among them.

As the dust settles on an unprecedented auction, we analyse how each team fared in the auction, and how they shape up ahead of the sixth season starting from October.

Bengal Warriors

Grade: A -

The Warriors had retained two of their best players in Surjeet Singh and Maninder Singh and regained the services of Jang Kun Lee, Ran Singh through the auctions. Defender Amaeras Mondal and all-rounder Ravindra Kumavat also returned to the fold. Jagdish Kumble will be happy to have the core of his side that reached the playoffs last season back in the team.

With Maninder, Jang and Mahesh Goud, the raiding department looks pretty strong and has good depth as well. All-rounder Shrikanth Tewthia adds great balance to the side and was perhaps the pick of the buys at the auction. The Kolkata-based side has 5 players from category A that is only matched by Tamil Thalaivas.

The Warriors look a well-rounded unit, but might just lack that X-factor to take the crown. Jang’s return to form is crucial for their chances.

Bengaluru Bulls will have to heavily depend on Rohit Kumar

Bengaluru Bulls will have to heavily depend on Rohit Kumar. PKL

Bengaluru Bulls

Grade: C - 

The Bulls have never been the same force since the time they let go the likes of Ajay Thakur, Manjeet Chhillar, Dharmaraj Cheralathan and Somvir Shekhar at one go. The Bangalore side haven’t recovered from that blow, and things were hardly different in the auction that went by.

They managed to cling on to their most prized asset Rohit Kumar by retaining him before the auctions. But nothing went well for them beyond that point. The Bulls managed to purchase just 3 players from categories A, B — the categories with best players. They were thus forced to pick 13 players from Category C.

Kashiling Adake was one of their better buys, but the Maharashtrian raider has hardly made waves in the last few seasons. Ashish Kumar, Mahendra Singh Dhaka and Jasmer Singh Gulia are other names that ring a bell, but none will strike fear in the opponents’ minds.

Dabang Delhi

Grade: C+

Dabang Delhi are league’s perennial underachievers. After the latest auctions, their fate is unlikely to change. Delhi had an opening day to forget after they were outbid by other teams to several top players. The capital side had won the bidding war for Rahul Chaudhari, only for the Telugu Titans to steal the show by retaining him using the FBM (Final Bid Match)

Delhi showed some fight on the second day to add some quality to their side, but in the end, it appears Dabang Delhi don’t have enough.

There are some big names on their roster like Shabeer Bapu, Vishal Mane, Ravinder Pahal, Joginder Narwal and Rajesh Narwal, but all these players have been on a rapid decline. Delhi will be a real force to reckon with if those players can get their mojo back, but even with that their raiding department appears weak.

Delhi have invested faith in the old guard. However, it’s a huge risk that they could have done without. They avoid a really low-grade thanks to the desire and effort shown towards building a strong team

Gujarat Fortunegiants

Grade: B+

Last year’s runners-up had more to lose than gain in the auction, but the Ahmedabad outfit decided to keep hold of some of their best young talents in Sachin and Mahendra Rajput.

In the auctions, they did well to regain cover defender Parvesh Bhainswal who starred for them last season. Apart from the Bhainswal, the Fortunegiants strengthened their raiding department with purchases of K Prapanjan and Ajay Kumar.

Coach Manpreet Singh once again decided to place faith in youth by signing 7 players from the New Young Player category, but having trained the lot himself at the pre-auction camp in Navi Mumbai, the former Patna Pirates man is certain to have handpicked the cream.

Gujarat also bought cover defender Ruturaj Koravi for cheap. The Maharashtra defender rose prominence in the Senior Nationals last year where a series of impressive performances helped his state to the title.

The Fortunegiants seem to be banking on the same formula as last season, but as it did in the final, the lack of experience could come back to bit them.

Haryana Steelers

Grade: B

Haryana Steelers surprised many after retaining all-rounder Kuldeep Singh over Surender Nada and Mohit Chhillar. Even though they managed to get back Nada, they missed out on Chhillar.

However, they made headlines by buying Monu Goyat in a record-breaking purchase. Goyat’s qualities make that amount appear a lot less outrageous but it did handicap the Steelers to an extent for the rest of the auction. The JSW-owned outfit built a strong raiding unit by signing Wazir Singh and Vikash Khandola, but their defence that has few big names apart from Nada and Sachin Shingade looks vulnerable.

Another threat staring the Steelers in the face is the lack of depth. The Haryana side signed just 16 players, two less than the minimum required figure of 18. The Steelers thus will have to be in the market to complete their squad.

On their day, Steelers have plenty of talent to overturn any team, but injuries to key players could derail their season.

Jaipur Pink Panthers

Grade: A

Jaipur Pink Panthers were among three sides who decided against retaining players, and their strategy in the auction was clear from minute one. Abhishek Bachchan and Co went all out after every top player that was made available. The plan certainly worked to an extent.

The purchase of Deepak Niwas Hooda was the best of the lot, but the acquisition of former U Mumba captain Anup Kumar could be worth its weight in gold. The steal of K Selvamani, and purchases of Sandeep Dhull and Mohit Chhillar make them a formidable unit.

Other buys like Nitin Rawal, Bajirao Hodage, Anand Patil and Kenyan skipper David Mosambayi provides adequate cover.

The Pink Panthers, at least on paper, appear to be one of the favourites. They could have scored the maximum rating had they not failed to achieve the minimum number of squad size.

Patna Pirates

Grade: B+

The defending champions won half the battle when they retained Pardeep Narwal, but faced a task on their hands to fill the void left by Goyat. The Pirates did a pretty decent job of it by not going for a like-to-like replacement, but instead replaced him with a number of supporting raiders. Deepak Narwal, Surender Singh and Tushar Patil are quite capable to allow Pardeep work his magic.

In Jaideep and Manish, the Pirates have a set defensive combination. All-rounders like Kuldeep Singh, Jawahar Dagar mean the Pirates have improved upon their defence from last season.

The only threat facing Patna Pirates is that they once again might too dependent on Pardeep to see them over the line. Even though he has carried them for three years, someone someday will stop him and Patna may not have the answers.

Puneri Paltan

Grade: B+

The perennial bronze-medalists Puneri Paltan thought they had the team to go through the final steps last season, but they were floored by Pardeep and Co yet again. Unsurprisingly, the Paltan decided to retain four of those players: Sandeep Narwal, Rajesh Mondal, Girish Ernak and Gurunath More. Captain Deepak Niwas Hooda was a surprise exclusion, but the Paltan made up for his loss by purchasing Nitin Tomar.

The Paltan seemed determined to regain their lost squad and hence brought back Rinku Narwal, Monu and Ravi Kumar to the fold. However, in doing so lost a bit of edge that they had last season.

The Paltan managed to sign just 5 players from the top two categories. One gets the feeling, that Puneri Paltan will once again make it to the playoffs, but that title could continue to elude them.

Tamil Thalaivas kept faith in Ajay Thakur despite a underwhelming performance in the PKL last season. Image Courtesy: PKL

Tamil Thalaivas kept faith in Ajay Thakur despite an underwhelming performance in the PKL last season. Image Courtesy: PKL

Tamil Thalaivas

Grade: A

The newcomers had a season to forget as they ended up with the wooden spoon. Barring a few good performances, the Chennai-based outfit had little to show for their efforts last season. However, the Sachin Tendulkar co-owned franchise showed critical wisdom in retaining the cream of the team.

Ajay Thakur, Amit Hooda and C Arun provided a good base for the team to build on, and the Thalaivas quietly build a strong team. The raiding department is one of the balanced with Thakur, Jasvir Singh bringing in all the experience, while Sukesh Hegde and Surjeet Singh adding a bit of exuberance.

In defence, Manjeet Chhillar’s fitness holds the key. If the all-rounder if fully fit, then the Thaliavas will most likely be the team to beat next season. The addition of Sunil to the already strong defence makes them very secure on both fronts.

Coach Bhaskaran Edacherry has a knack for getting the best out of team’s senior players and Tamil Thalaivas could just have a team to challenge for the big prize.

UP Yoddha

Grade: B -

UP Yoddha surprised many by not retaining many of their stars. The North Indian side failed to regain Nitin Tomar in the auctions, but managed to keep the talented Rishank Devadiga.

The raiding department was further bolstered by the purchases of Prashanth Kumar Rai, Shrikanth Jadhav and Rohit Kumar Choudhary.

However, apart from Jeeva Kumar, the defence looks lightweight. Moreover, Jeeva too hasn’t had the best of times in the past year. Nitesh Kumar too was not the most consistent defender last season.

UP failed to reach the final primarily due to their weak defence in their debut campaign. This season, it may well be their undoing again, and with a slightly weaker raiding department too, the Yoddha may struggle to reach the playoffs.

U Mumba

Grade: D

U Mumba failed to maintain the high standards they set in the opening three seasons, in the two campaigns that followed. After the auction concluded in their very own city on Thursday, few teams would have been more dissatisfied.

After making an explosive start to the auction by signing Fazel Atrachali for Rs 1 crore, Mumbai faltered quite badly later on. They failed to sign a single category A domestic player in the auction despite actively taking part in many bidding wars.

The early hit taken by the purchase of Fazel might have played on their minds, but U Mumba messed up the domestic Category A player auction.

U Mumba have one of the weakest raiding departments. The absence of a marquee name will only infuse confidence into their opponents, putting big pressure on their defence that doesn’t look the strongest either.

Atrachali will be complemented by Dharmaraj Cheralathan, but at 43, it is highly unlikely that Cheralathan will play each game for Mumbai. Other recruits, Rohit Rana and Hadi Tajik too didn’t have the best of times in recent times.

U Mumba are one of the weakest teams on paper and would need their youngsters to step it up quite a bit to have a chance just to make the playoffs.


Updated Date: Jun 02, 2018 11:37 AM

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