The Pro Kabaddi League is back with Season 3 and for the first time in its short history, the journey begins outside Mumbai but in the beautiful Port city of Vizag, home to the Telugu Titans.
The Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium is set to light up as 8 teams, from 8 cities battle it out in over 60 matches spread across the nation over the next 37 days. It’s only right for the team that enthralled the most last season to start proceedings this time around, so it will be the defending Champions U Mumba that take on the hosts, Telugu Titans in the opener on Saturday, a rivalry that could be the fiercest this season as well. It’s a double header night to start the season and the depleted Bengaluru Bulls take on the Dabangs from Delhi in the second encounter of the night.
U Mumba are the defending champions, the most consistent side in the PKL and this year they possess not just one but two of the biggest and most reliable names in Indian Kabaddi with Anup Kumar & Rakesh Kumar. They got close in Season 1, attained the summit in Season 2 but as we all know, getting there is hard enough and staying there is even harder. In the Telugu Titans though they come up against the only side that has a positive record vs. U Mumba and with a restructured side, new coach and the venue back in Vizag where their rise began, you’d expect them to come out all guns blazing. Momentum is a key word in sport and we’ve never witnessed the home side lose the opening encounter of PKL so history does favour the Titans. But, that’s exactly how Mumbai would like it.
I’d expect U Mumba to go about their work the way they always do, with delicate workmanship, picking up points initially not in a heap but with minimal fuss, working on the errors of the opposition. Mumbai have a knack of coming back strong in the second half which essentially means it’s upto the Titans to be at their aggressive best to take the game by the scruff of the neck early and build a sizeable lead.
Vizag is where Rahul Chaudhari & the Titans started their rise and it was against this very side back in Season 1. They may have lost Deepak Hudda from their star trio that included Rahul Chaudhari & Sukesh Hegde, but they’ve added bulk & experience to the defense with Dharmaraj Cheralathan manning the corners with his kid brother, Gopu and also have an unknown entity in Rahul Kumar (Cover defender) who had Anup’s number all through the Kabaddi Nationals in Bangalore. Rahul Chaudhari, the poster boy of Pro Kabaddi, on the other hand did not score a single point vs. U Mumba in Season 2 and the defending champions primary goal would be to keep it that way. That’s half the battle won!
Expect an all out battle between the most aggressive raiding side and the most rock solid defensive unit in U Mumba. Both these sides are expected to go very deep in this competition and we could not have asked for a better start to Season 3.
HEAD TO HEAD: U Mumba 1 – 2 Telugu Titans & 1 Tie
Players to watch out for:
U Mumba – Rakesh Kumar, Surender Nada + Mohit Chhillar combo
Telugu Titans – Rahul Chaudhari, Rahul Kumar, Dharmaraj Cheralathan
Game 2: Bengaluru Bulls vs Dabang Delhi
Match 2 throws up an interesting battle between two sides with very different abilities, and while Dabang Delhi possess the star power, they still haven’t found the answers as a cohesive unit and they come up against a side that has made the playoffs on both occasions under the tutelage of coach Randhir, but are now underdogs having lost all their star power.
The transfer window has hit the Bulls harder that anyone else and last year’s finalists might have to pull a rabbit out of a hat to repeat the success of Season 2. Dabang Delhi need to kickstart their Season 3 with the confidence of knowing they still possess the best defender and raider from Season 2 in Ravinder Pahal and Kashiling Adake.
What they lacked however was communication and the ability to come together as a team that wasn’t just about individual glory. The inclusion of athletes from the Services a few days ago has given Delhi a massive boost as well with Surjit Singh, who was the star at the Kabaddi Nationals in Bangalore, now combining with Kashiling Adake to give Delhi the most potent attack in the league. Bengaluru too have a Surjeet in their ranks and the “Flying Machine” for Delhi in Season 1 now spearheads a young side and I’m sure has a point to prove when he comes up against his former teammates tonight. Without the likes of Manjeet Chillar, Ajay Thakur and D Cheralathan, coach Randhir Singh’s unique coaching abilities will really need to reflect on the team who’s X-factor might just be the very fact that the youngsters have never been under the spotlight, making them men with absolutely nothing to lose.
Delhi come into this one as firm favourites with Bengaluru’s inexperienced line up coming up against an incredible attack in Kashi & Surjit while their lone star in Surjeet Narwal will no doubt be targeted by Delhi skipper and ankle hold specialist, Ravinder “The Hawk” Pahal.
Players to watch for:
Dabang Delhi – Kashiling Adake, Surjit Singh, Ravinder Pahal
Bengaluru Bulls – Surjeet Narwal, Deepak Kumar, Somvir
Head to Head
Total Matches- 4
Benguluru 3 – 1 Delhi