The new teams — Gujarat Fortunegiants, Haryana Steelers, UP Yoddha, 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 have a look at how the 12 outfits will look like and who will lead their charge. The teams are divided into two groups of six teams each. Zone B consists of Titans, Bengaluru, Patna, Warriors, UP, Thalaivas
Patna Pirates: With Pardeep Narwal expected to be in command and players like Vishal Manae, Sachin Shingade and Monu Goyat in their ranks, the two times PKL champions Patna Pirates will once again be the team to beat. Pirates, who believe in playing attacking game, will also see Iran’s Mohammad Maghsoudlou taking care of their defence.
Strength: Pardeep Narwal’s ability to steal points in intense situations. And with Vishal and Sachin covering both the corners, the defending champions have all their areas covered.
Weakness: In the absence of Rajesh Moondal, Pirates do not have anyone to support the ‘dupki king’.
Expected playing 7: Jaydeep, Monu Goyat, Virender Singh, Pardeep Narwal, Vishal Mane, Sachin Shingade, Mohammad Maghsoudlou.
Complete squad: Pardeep Narwal, Vijay, Parveen Birwal, Arvind Kumar, Mohammad Maghsoudlou, Vishal Mane, Sachin Shingade, Monu Goyat, Md. Zakir Hossain, Jaideep, Manish, Jawahar, Satish, Sandeep, Virender Singh, Vikash Jaglan, Vishnu Uthaman, Vinod Kumar
Telugu Titans: Season 4 semifinalists, Telugu Titans will play under the captaincy of ‘poster boy’ Rahul Chaudhari. Titans, who believe in playing an attacking and fast game, have added the experience of Rakesh Kumar in their squad. They also have a tested attacking combination of Nilesh Salunke and Rahul.
Strength: Rahul and Nilesh Salunke will hold the key for Telugu Titans. Rakesh Kumar’s presence brings stability to the team in Rahul’s absence. Amit Chhillar’s presence in the left corner is vital for them.
Weakness: Defence is a weak link which affects the balance of the team. They can be over relied on Rahul Chaudhari.
Expected playing 7: Amit Chhillar, Rahul Chaudhari, Rakesh Kumar, Nilesh Salunke, Rohit Rana, Vinod Kumar, Vikas Kumar
Complete squad: Rahul Chaudhari, Vishal Bharadwaj, Athul M S, Sombir, Farhad Rahimi Milaghardan, Rakesh Kumar, Rohit Rana, Mohsen Maghsoudloujafari, Vinod Kumar, Amit Singh Chillar, Vikas Kumar, Vikas, Nilesh Salunke, Vinoth Kumar, Munish, Vikrant, Ankit Malik, Elangeshwaran R
Bengal Warriors: Bengal Warriors’journey in previous four seasons has not been that great. After finishing eighth in the last edition, the Warriors made sure that they build a strong squad for the fifth season. With a new squad this time around, the Bengal team will be looking for a change in their fortunes. The retained Korean Jang Kun Lee who has been most consistent for the Kolkata-based franchise and has become a local star in the process.
Strength: Jang Kun Lee in attack and Ran Singh in defence
Weakness: Except for the presence of Jang Kun Lee and Ran Singh, the current squad lacks the ability to stand against any team
Expected playing 7: Jang Kun Lee, Ran Singh, Surjeet Singh, Deepak Narwal, Ameares Mondal, Shashank Wankhede, Shrikant Tewthia
Complete squad: Jang Kun Lee, Ravindra Ramesh Kumavat, Sandeep Malik, Ameares Mondal, Ran Singh, Surjeet Singh, Youngchang Ko, Bhupender Singh, Shrikant Tewthia, Virendra Singh, Maninder Singh, Deepak Narwal, Rahul Kumar, Shashank Wankhede, Vinod Kumar, Vikash, Kuldeep, Anil Kumar
UP Yodha: With Rishank Devadiga, Nitin Tomar and Rajesh Narwal, UP Yoddha cannot be taken lightly. Yoddhas, who arguably comprise of the best raiding unit, will rely on their attack to help them make it into the playoffs. However, except Jeeva Kumar, the UP-based franchise has a relatively weaker defence unit. With Udaya Kumar as the head coach, they can be seen as one of the title contenders in the fifth season.
Strength: UP’s strength is their attack. The trio of Devadiga, Tomar and Rajesh
Weakness: UP Yoddha’s defence is completely opposite of their attack. They only have one experienced defender in Jeeva Kumar. Barring Jeeva, no other player has featured in more than 15 matches.
Expected playing 7: Rishank Devadiga, Nitin Tomar, Rajesh Narwal, Jeeva Kumar, Hadi Tajik, Mahesh Goud, Sulieman Kabir
Complete squad: Nitesh Kumar, Pankaj, Sulieman Kabir, Rajesh Narwal, Jeeva Kumar, Nitin Tomar, Rishank Devadiga, Hadi Tajik, Gurvinder Singh, Surendra Singh, Mahesh Goud, Santosh B.S, Ajvender Singh, Rohit Kumar, Sanoj Kumar, Gulveer Singh, Sunil, Sagar B. Krishna
Tamil Thalaivas: One of the four new entrants in the league, Tamil Thalaivas are the only team to have completed their quota of 25 players in the auction. With 15 players aged under 25, the Chennai-based franchise has a shortage of raiders. After spending Rs 63 lakhs to avail the services of Ajay Thakur, Thalaivas overly rely on their captain and Amit Hooda. Youngsters like Prapanjan and Thangadurai will have a plenty of chances to prove themselves. Bhavani Rajput and Sombir too can play a supportive role. They will bank on the experience of coach Kasinathan Bhaskaran.
Strength: Experience of Ajay Thakur, Anil Kumar, Amit Hooda will be valuable for the side. Bhaskaran’s inputs over the coming weeks will be extremely important for the team
Weakness: In the absence of their key players, it will be a dwelling challenge for their inexperienced, young squad to step in and fill the boots of senior players.
Expected playing 7: Ajay Thakur, Amit Hooda, Prapanjan, Vijin Thangadurai, Anil Kumar, Bhavani Rajput and Sombir
Complete squad: Ajay Thakur, Bhavani Rajput, Prathap, Rajesh, Anil Kumar, Amit Hooda, Mugilan, Donggeon Lee , Waleed Al Hasani, Chansik Park, Anil Kumar, C. Arun, Sanket Chavan, T. Prabhakaran, M. Thivakaran, Sombir, Vijay Kumar, Vijin Thangadurai, Muruthu M, Vineet Sharma, K. Prapanjan, Sujit Maharana, Darshan J., Sarang Arun Deshmukh, Ananthkumar
Bengaluru Bulls: Bengaluru Bulls’ performance in the previous four editions can be segregated in two distinct parts. The first two editions saw them finish in the top three, before a dip in performance in the third and the fourth season respectively. Bulls have spent Rs 81 lakh to acquire Rohit Kumar. With Rohit back in the fold, Bulls’ would hope that the star raider will lead from the front.
Strength: Ashish, Harish Naik and Sumit Singh are expected to form vital cogs with Rohit and Sanjay Shrestha providing them with the much-needed experience
Weakness: With all their departments covered, Bengaluru Bulls comprise of a steady team. However, in absence of star performers, pressure can build on the youngsters
Expected playing 7: Rohit Kumar, Ashish Sangwan, Pradeep Narwal, Ravinder Pahal, Ajay Kumar, Sanjay Shrestha
Complete Squad: Harish Naik, Ashish Sangwan, Sumit Singh, Ravinder Pahal, Ajay, Rohit Kumar, Sinotharan Kanesharajah, Sanjay Shrestha, Sachin Kumar, Gurvinder Singh, Mahender Singh, Pradeep Narwal, Kuldeep Singh, Ankit Sangwan, Amit, Preetam Chhillar, Sunil Jaipal