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The only PKL season 8 preview you need to read


After a two-year hiatus, the Pro Kabaddi League will be back on TV screens and on the mat from December 22nd.

So what’s different this time?

Unlike previous editions, the tournament will not be held in multiple cities this time. The entire league will take place in Bengaluru with the players being in a strict bio-bubble with no fans allowed at the stadium.

What should we watch out for?

The tournament will see triple headers being played on each of the first four days as all the 12 teams will be in action rightaway. With the league likely to last for two months, shorter than its previous duration of three months, squad depth, rotations and injury management will be a lot more crucial this time around.

Are Bengal Warriors favourites to be champions again?

In its previous seven iterations, the PKL has been a highly competitive league, with no team other than Patna Pirates managing to win the title more than once. Moreover, there has been a different winner in each of the last three seasons.

However, defending champions Bengal Warriors have given themselves a strong chance of changing that by retaining or buying back most of their best players from the previous season.

They have impressive depth in their raiding ranks and their foreign contingent led by Mohammad Nabibakhsh and Abozar Mighani is probably the strongest in the league. Maninder Singh has been injury prone in previous seasons though, so his fitness and leadership will be key to how far they progress in the tournament. Anything less than a top four finish will be a disappointment considering the squad they have assembled.

Will Pardeep Narwal finally be in a team that can match his high standards?

After spearheading Pirates’ charge to three titles in the last five seasons, Pardeep Narwal will not be in green this season and turn out for the super-consistent UP Yoddha. Even as Pardeep continued to maintain ridiculously high standards, Pirates floundered over the past two seasons despite of boasting good quality in their ranks.

A move away from the most successful team in the league might not be bad at all for both player and team as Pardeep will enjoy being part of a team that has quality raiders apart from him and where all the pressure to deliver in the big moments is not on him solely. Yoddha are the only team to make the playoffs in every season they’ve taken part in (they only entered the fray in season five), and with Pardeep in their ranks they will be battling for nothing less than the title after spending most of their auction purse on him.

Can Jaipur Pink Panthers reclaim past glory?

Ever since they won the very first edition of the PKL, the Jaipur Pink Panthers have been among the teams with the largest fan base in the league, also helped by all the accompanying attention that a high profile owner brings.

They have never been short of big names or star quality but more often than not, they have buckled under the greater scrutiny that they tend to attract. In fact, they have only made the playoffs once in the last six seasons.

Their last season was even the subject of the uninspiring documentary, ‘Jaipur Pink Panthers: Sons of the Soil’. While the documentary didn’t get a lot of things right, it did provide a peek into what went wrong for the team as the senior players rarely looked eye to eye with each other and coach Srinivas Reddy was often at loggerheads with captain Deepak Niwas Hooda.

They have addressed part of that problem by roping in the highly respected Sanjeev Kumar Baliyan as their coach. Baliyan is a legend in Indian kabaddi and did an impressive job with a young U Mumba team last season. How he handles the big egos of his star players — Amit Hooda, Deepak Niwas Hooda, Sandeep Kumar Dhull and Nitin Rawal — might be key to how well the team fares this season.

Is Surender Nada still the force he was?

At his best, Surender Nada was not just the best defender in the Indian team but also the best defender in the PKL. A crucial cog in the Indian team that won the World Cup in 2016, Nada has only played one game in the last two seasons as his career has been ravaged by injuries in the past few years.

Now 34, Nada may have lost some of his best years to injuries but as a defender, he still has a few years left in him and a good show here might see him sneak into the Asian Games squad for next year, where India will be keen to reclaim the Gold medal after losing to Iran last time around.

Who are the top foreign players to watch out for?

Unlike most other Indian leagues, the PKL has always been dominated by Indian players as they have generally dominated the sport at the international level too. However, there have been foreign players who have not just made a mark on the mat but also forced teams to empty their purses at the auction table.

For sheer consistency and performance against the very best, Fazel Atrachali has very few peers in the PKL and has been the standout defender over the last three seasons. He has also proven himself to be a very astute captain, who is particularly adept at dealing with youngsters. Expect more of the same from him this year in what is a surprisingly inexperienced U Mumba team.

With Maninder Singh missing, most people didn’t give Bengal Warriors must of a chance in the final last year. However, Mohammad Nabibakhsh did the star turn with languid ease to cap what had been a remarkable breakthrough season for him in the PKL. With a couple of more years of experience behind him, Nabibakhsh will be a bigger headache for most teams this year and don’t be surprised if he’s among the top points scorers at the end of the season.



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