With the third season of the Pro Kabaddi League less than a week away, this indianexpress.com series takes a look at how the revamped squads shape up and how the changes could affect their fortunes this year. In focus today are U Mumba – defending champions who would look to retain the title.
The runners-up from the inaugural edition and champions of the second season continue to be title favourites going into the third edition. The defending champions battled injuries during their Season 1 campaign with Shabeer and Jeeva sidelined, and didn’t really have a 100% fit Shabeer in Season 2 either, with the added loss of their ankle hold specialist Surender Nada.
Anup Kumar, captain of the team, however, proved that Kabaddi was played between the ears and the star raider led them to the title. With eight wins on the trot in the 2015 edition, U Mumba capitalised on opposition’s errors and held on to their lead during tense encounters.
U Mumba are the only side to retain their starting seven and the inclusion of former India captain Rakesh Kumar from Patna might come as a surprise to many, but Anup, who got him on board, would know how to get the best out of the old warhorse.
As far as style is concerned, U Mumba aren’t actually about their attack and the raiding department might be an area of concern this year. Anup was not at his best last season and they’ll need a fit Shabeer Bapu to fire alongside Rishank Devadiga who will have a larger role than being a do-or-die raid specialist this season. The fitter Rakesh, with a point to prove, is an unknown entity at this point but Bhupender and the young bench might be called into action as in when required.
With attack still finding its feet, U Mumba would pin their hopes on defence. The experience of Jeeva Kumar (who had 7 super tackles in Season 2) and the impact of the rock solid Vishal Mane, coupled with coordination from the corners of Mohit Chillar and Surender Nada form a web that is nearly impossible to penetrate.
Transfers: Rakesh Kumar comes in from Patna Pirates
# Retained CORE group – Anup, Shabeer, Rishank, Jeeva, Vishal, Mohit & Surender
# Addition of a fit Rakesh Kumar under Anup’s captaincy
# Coaching duo of Bhaskaran & Ravi Shetty also retained
# Defensive combinations of Mohit + Surender & Jeeva + Vishal
#Predictability & pattern is a concern – raiding department struggled last year
# Injury concerns – Shabeer not 100% going in
# Can’t set the tone early since Home leg is just before playoffs – fatigue becomes a factor
# Rakesh Kumar is fitter, has a point to prove & under Anup – best bet!
# Bench strength might have more work but Bhupender & co. are hungry
# Home leg late so Shabeer will be fit by then
# Pressure to perform and carry on from Season 2 success
# Complacency could be a factor given the amount of success they’ve had
# No start or end of the tournament at the NSCI, Mumbai this time around wipes out home advantage