Season 5 of the Pro Kabaddi is merely days away now and addition of four new teams has now made the tournament bigger, and certainly better. Twelve teams in action over 12 weeks makes PKL the biggest franchise-based league of the country. The new teams — Gujarat Fortunegiants, Haryana Steeler, UP Yodha, Tamil Thalaivas — along with Patna Pirates, Puneri Paltan, Jaipur Pink Panthers, Bengaluru Bulls, Dabang Delhi, Bengal Warriors, Telugu Titans, U Mumba will battle in 138 matches across 13 weeks to win coveted title. We take a look at how the 12 teams will look like and who will lead them in the upcoming edition. The teams are divided into two groups of six teams each. Zone A consists of Delhi, Jaipur, Pune, Mumbai, Haryana, Gujarat
Gujarat Franchise, one of the four new teams, are expected to put up a good show with smart buys at the auction. Former Telugu Titans’ star raider Sukesh Hegde will have teams’ command and with the Iranian duo of Fazel Atrachali and Abozar Mohajermighani, they possess matchwinners in their ranks. Fortunegiants look more stable as they have Mahendra Ganesh Rajput to support their captain.
Strength: Breaking through the strong Iranian corner combination of Fazel and Abozar will be very difficult for any side. Also, the experience Sukesh brings on the table will be a cherry on the cake for them.
Weakness: They lack strong covers to support the corner combination.
Expected playing 7: Sukesh Hegde, Vikas Kale, Fazel Atrachali, Mahendra Rajput, Abozar, Manoj Kumar, Sultan Dange
Complete Squad: Fazel Atrachali, Rohit Gulia, C Kalai Arasan, Abozar Mohajermighani, Sukesh Hegde, Mahendra Ganesh Rajput, Seongryeol Kim, Mahipal Narwal, Vikas Kale, Manoj Kumar, Sachin, Amit Om Prakash Rathi, Dange Sultan, Parvesh Bhainswal, Sunil Kumar, Pawan Kumar, Rakesh Narwal, Chandran Ranjit
Puneri Paltan: One of the top four teams in the history of Pro Kabaddi League, the Pune outfit has rejigged the squad which wears a fresh look. Deepak Hooda, who joined the team in the third season, will be leading the team that has experienced players like Dharmaraj Chelerathan, Sandeep Narwal and Rajesh Mondal. They will be contesting to win their maiden PKL title.
Strength: Their right mix of experienced and youth puts them way ahead of the other 11 teams. Their trio of Deepak, Sandeep and Chelarathan will once again put pressure on the opposition teams. With Takamatsu Kono and Ziaur Rahman in the squad, it gives them an option to rest their key defenders when required.
Weakness: Puneri Paltan lack depth in the squad.
Expected playing 7: Deepak Hooda, Sandeep Narwal, Rajesh Mondal, Dharmaraj Chelerathan, Umesh Mhatre, Girish Ernak, Rohit Chaudhary
Complete squad: Deepak Hooda, Ziaur Rahman, Takamitsu Kono, Sandeep Narwal, Girish Maruti Ernak, Dharmaraj Cheralathan, Rajesh Mondal, Ravi Kumar, Rohit Kumar Choudary, Umesh Mhatre, More G B, Akshay Jadhav, Suresh Kumar, Ajay, Narender Hooda
Jaipur Pink Panthers: The inaugural season winners, Jaipur Pink Panthers, are most likely to hand over the captaincy role to Jasvir Singh. Manjeet Chhillar, who joins the season four finalists from Puneri Paltan, holds the key for them. While Selvamani K will play a supportive role to Jasvir and Manjeet, youngster Manoj Dhull and Somvir Shekhar will handle their defence.
Strength: Selvamani’s expertise in a do-or-die raid situation and Manjeet-Jasvir duo puts Jaipur team with one of the strongest attacks.
Weakness: There is not much support for Navneet in the left cover.
Expected playing 7: Jasvir Singh, Manjeet Chhillar, Selvamani K, Manoj Dhull, Somvir Shekhar, Navneet Gautam, Jaemin Lee
Complete squad: Ajit Singh, Santhapanaselvam, Manjeet Chhillar, Jasvir Singh, Selvamani K., Jaemin Lee, Donggyu Kim, Manoj Dhull, Navneet Gautam, Somvir Shekhar, Pawan Kumar, Kamal Kishor, Tushar Patil, Vignesh B, Siddharth, Sunil Siddhgavali, Ravinder Kumar, Abhishek N., Rahul Choudhary
U Mumba: One of the most consistent sides in PKL history, Anup Kumar-led U Mumba side has had successful outings in the past, and will particularly aim to replicate the same. After failing to make it into the playoffs in the fourth season, the Mumbai-based franchise will look to pose a stiff challenge to the other teams. Shabeer Bapu, who spent his first three seasons at U Mumba, makes a return. Dabang Delhi’s Kashiling Adake joins the second season champions, making them one of the brutal forces in the league.
Strength: Trio of Anup Kumar, Kashiling and Shabeer, U Mumba will pose a stiff challenge to the other teams in the fray. Not to forget local boy Nitin Madane, who is looking to make a strong comeback.
Weakness: Anup Kumar’s fitness will be a challenge for the former winners. Having the Indian skipper fit throughout the season will be one of the task the supporting staff will be looking forward to the same
Expected playing 7: Anup Kumar, Shabeer Bappu, Kashiling Adake, Surender Singh, Hadi Oshorak, Nitin Madane, E Subash
Complete squad: Anup Kumar, E Subash, Surender Singh, Shiv Om, Hadi Oshtorak, Yongjoo Ok, Dongju Hong, Kuldeep Singh, Joginder Singh Narwal, Kashiling Adake, Nitin Madane, Shabeer Bappu, D. Suresh Kumar, Darsan, Shrikant Jadhav, Deepak Yadav, N. Renjith, Mohan Raman G
Dabang Delhi: After finishing seventh in the previous edition, Dabang Delhi will look to turn their fortunes in the fifth edition. With an all-new squad and under Meeraj Sheykh’s captaincy, Dabang Delhi is all set to take the panga. After acquiring the services of Iran’s Abolfazel Maghsodlo and Nilesh Shinde, they pose a strong defence.
Strength: Dabang Delhi have a well-balanced side. With Meeraj Sheykh, Abolfazel, Nilesh Shinde and Bajirao Hodge, the Delhi team can promise an improved performance in the fifth season.
Weakness: In Meeraj’s absence, it will be interesting to see who will take the charge of the team and if the team will be able to deliver with a mixture of young players.
Expected playing 7: Meraj Sheykh, Abolfazel Maghsodlo, Nilesh Shinde, Ravi Dalal, Bajirao Hodge, Suresu Kumar, Tapas Pal
Complete squad: Meraj Sheykh, Tapas Pal, Vishal, Abolfazel Maghsodlo, Nilesh Shinde, Ravi Dalal, Bajirao Hodge, Sunil, Suraj Desai, Rohit Baliyan, Patil Anand, Rupesh Tomar, Viraj Vishnu Landge, Suresu Kumar, Chetan S, Vipin Malik, Shubham Ashok Palkar, Swapnil Dilip Shinde, Satpal, Yatharth
Haryana Steelers: Being one of the leading centres for kabaddi in the country, expectations will be high from the Steelers. Making their PKL debut, Steelers have two of the best defenders in their squad — Surender Nada and Mohit Chhillar. The duo has combined 308 tackle points in the history of the league. Their raid department will be lead by Surjeet Singh, Wazir Singh and Sonu Narwal.
Strength: With Surender Nada, Mohit Chhillar, Sonu Narwal and Surjeet Singh, a lot can be expected from the Steelers.
Weakness: Haryana is over-reliant on their star powers.
Expected playing 7: Surender Nada, Mohit Chhillar, Sonu Narwal, Surjeet Singh, Wazir Singh, Jeeva Gopal, Mosambayi
Complete squad: Surender Nada, Mayur Shivtarkar, Vikash, Neeraj Kumar, Khomsan Thongkham, Mohit Chhillar, Sonu Narwal, CPO Surjeet Singh, David Mosambayi, Deepak Kumar, Mahender Singh Dhaka, Prashant Kumar Rai, Deepak Kumar Dahiya, Wazir Singh, Parmod Narwal, Jeeva Gopal, Rakesh Singh Kumar, Vikash Khandola, Ashish Chhokar, Kuldeep Singh, Babu M, Raju Lal Choudhary
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines