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 Puneri Paltan – a team with a makeover
For a side from the hotbed of Kabaddi in India, finishing bottom of the table in Season 1 & 2 meant only one thing, change was the need of the hour. Masterminded by Coach Ashok Shinde & owners Insurekot Sports Pvt. Ltd., Puneri Paltan may have sounded out a warning by going from embarrassing to having an embarrassment of riches, with the biggest and most impressive squad overhaul in the entire competition.
With nine players new to the big spending Paltans, it’s fair to say the team goals and hunger for success has undergone a pretty dramatic makeover. In Manjeet Chhillar & Deepak Hudda, Pune have bagged, arguably the two best all-rounders in world Kabaddi. Manjeet was the best defender of PKL 1 and then the MVP in PKL Season 2, where Deepak was perhaps his closest competitor. The Paltans released most of the big names in their squad including Wazir Singh but retained the impressive Yogesh Hudda, who I see doing the bulk of the scoring even with Ajay Thakur in the revamped squad. Pune further strengthened their web of defense with the experienced Sachin Khambe and Prashant Chavan manning their corners and Somvir Shekhar adding bulk in the cover position. Manjeet led the Bengaluru Bulls to the playoffs in both seasons and while solid leadership can be a big plus for this team of stars, Manjeet will have to calm himself down a touch to handle the big names and get them to play as a cohesive unit, not for individual glory.
Pune almost carry the “favourites” tag which is not what anyone might have expected a few months ago, but to me, their success solely relies on man management from the coach captains perspective to ensure that as Winston Churchill said, they are not “stripped by the problem of plenty”. They certainly now look like one of the most balanced sides in the league and will be disappointed if they do not make the final four and give themselves a sniff of the trophy.
Somvir Shekhar, Manjeet Chillar, Ajay Thakur and Sandeep Malik (all from Bengaluru Bulls)
Sachin Shingade and Deepak Hooda (both from Telugu Titans)
Sachin Khambe (from Bengal Warriors)
Jasmer Singh (from Dabang Delhi)
Prashant Chavan (from Jaipur Pink Panthers)
Wazir Singh and Pravin Niwale (both to Dabang Delhi)
Manoj Kumar and Kalimuthu Balamahendran (both to Telugu Titans)
Mahipal Narwal (to Patna Pirates)
Vijender Singh (to Bengaluru Bulls)
• Perhaps the strongest side on paper given the off-season signings
• Combination of Manjeet, Ajay, Deepak Hudda could be lethal
• Experienced defense as well with Jasmer, Prashant Chavan, Sachin, Somvir in addition
• Problem of plenty could come in the way of chalking up & executing plans
• Massive challenge for Coach Shinde to man manage the “star” quotient in the team
• Chance to undo the disappointment of S1 & 2 and give the loyal Kabaddi fans in Pune plenty to cheer about
• Coach Shinde comes in with a big reputation and will have one of the straongest sides on paper to prove his detractors wrong
• Getting carried away by complacency is a major threat to this new look squad
• Big names don’t always result in big outcomes & the key men will have to try and push for team glory ahead of individual achievement