Pro Kabaddi League: Fazel Atrachali's return to U Mumba and other top picks from the sport's biggest auction
Here are five of the finest purchases in the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) Player Auction 2018, which turned out to be the biggest auction in the history of the sport.
Whether or not Pro Kabaddi’s stars would upgrade their SUVs to ‘chaar choodis’ (Audis) or if its hopefuls could dream of going from mud to mat was decided over two evenings at a ballroom in suburban Mumbai this week. For a tournament that’s just five seasons old, it has already held too many auctions (four) for fans to hold on to their loyalties. On the flip side, it has led to tougher competition and a better spectacle.
Prior to this auction, all the franchises — remember there are a dozen now — were asked to retain ‘elite players’ and although U Mumba and Jaipur Pink Panthers let go of their iconic names Anup Kumar and Jasvir Singh respectively, the others held on to their proven match-winners.
That said, the notion of ‘half the battle is won on the auction table’ holds true for PKL too. Here are five deals that stood out in what was the sport’s biggest auction so far:
1. Fazel returns to U Mumba
Why the 2017 finalists Gujarat Fortunegiants dropped their skipper Fazel Atrachali back into the pool is a mystery, but his former franchise U Mumba did not mind it. Ronnie Screwvala’s table bid hard for the Iranian defender they know well, and ended up shelling out a crore to get him back.
Fazel is quite a beast in his left corner role, and has saved his teams from all-outs many times in the past by leaping at complacent raiders using his six-pack core strength. Raiders win you games but defenders win you trophies, and U Mumba’s pick of the only man who’s played in four PKL finals is astute.
2. Steelers don’t let go of Vikash Kandola
Quick feet, aggressive play and a calm demeanor made Haryana Steelers’ Vikash Kandola one of the brightest finds of the past season. He was just a Haryanvi teen having his first feel of life under the shiny lights but he won debutants Haryana many games on his own, stuff that took them to the playoffs. Also, having broken a bone in his foot while raiding and having to sit out in many games, the man has already gone through a storm of learning experiences.
Kandola cost the Steelers Rs 47 lakh, which after their bank-breaking bid of Rs 1.51 crore for Monu Goyat, left little for the others, a probable reason why their squad is just 12 men strong this season.
3. Jaipur add K Selvamani to their gold-standard raiding unit
This thin, six-foot-something raider from Salem was the only spark in Delhi’s disastrous third season and by the fifth, he had made a reputation for himself for getting valuable points, especially against packed defences. Selva uses his height to full advantage while raiding and even though the defenders pounce on him, he manages to cross the mid-line simply with full-length stretches.
Selvamani got injured early on in Jaipur’s last season and the coaches knew it could well have a key reason for their disastrous show. Jaipur have bought him back for Rs 15 lakh, and this time he could flourish with Anup and Deepak Hooda for company.
4. Gujarat bank on K Prapanjan for their fortunes
Call him Selvamani with leadership qualities. Also standing at over six feet of height, this lithe Salem-based raider spent nearly a whole season on the bench when he was with U Mumba. But last season, the debut of the franchise Tamil Thalaivas, was a boon to his career as he got the opportunity to come on his own especially after their star captain Ajay Thakur ran into a slump in form. Prapanjan finished with 123 raid points from 22 matches.
Now, Gujarat have spent a fortune of Rs 38 lakh to get him, and he remains their most expensive buy. It’s a neat deal, given that Prapanjan will join the brilliant Sachin and power their raiding.
5. Thalaivas snap up the big Manjeet
Another big name of the tournament which was let back into the auction pool, Manjeet Chillar now heads South (he cost Rs 20 lakh) for what should be one of his last seasons. As with Indian Premier League's big stars, kabaddi’s stars too face the ruthless ways of the hammer as the franchisees look for fitness and ability to last through the 22 group games.
Chillar possesses extra-ordinary all-round abilities to crush a raider and in the next minute, come prancing back from the opponent’s field bagging a touch point. But more than that, the Thalaivas will need his incredible game sense and last-minute tactics to have a better season this time. No prizes for guessing Chillar will be the informal coach-mentor too.
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