In early 2014, when Pro Kabaddi League was announced, nobody was surprised. Back then, launching private ‘leagues’ of every possible sport available in the country had become vogue. A trend set by IPL, sports channels were soon were flooded with leagues in sports like tennis, badminton, football, futsal and hockey . PKL felt no different- after all who played kabaddi in this era of cricket and football.
But the perceived ‘commercialisation’ of kabaddi breathed a new life into the traditional (and forgotten) sport. Soon, players like Rahul Chaudhari, Anup Kumar and Pardeep Narwal, among others, became overnight stars and household names. The league found some genuine takers and fan base. There was no looking back after that.
As the sixth season of the Pro Kabaddi League is upon us, we take a look at what to expect from the latest edition.
Pro Kabaddi League 2017-18
The 2017-18 season of Pro Kabaddi League was monumental for multitude reasons. For starters, for the first time in 4 years, the 5th season of PKL saw 12 teams instead of the usual 8. This was path breaking elementarily for two reasons. For one, it was the first time any of the India’s sports ‘leagues’ had increased by that number of teams. Secondly, it also demonstrated the growing popularity of the league.
In fact, a data released in 2018 clearly showed that the India viewership had risen by 56% for the 2017-18 season than the first season.
In addition to the above, last season was the biggest league tournament of its kind in the history of Indian sports in terms of geographical coverage and duration. It also featured 138 matches that were spread across a time period of 13 weeks across 11 states.
The auction held in 2017 saw 400 players go under hammer – another record in its own.
Patna Pirates always were the favourites for the title, but it was the debutants and finalists Gujarat Fortune Giants who surprised the most.
Player to look out for
Man of the tournament and man of the finale, Pardeep Narwal was the sole difference between Gujrat Fortune Giants and Patna Pirates. He snatched a record 19 raid points in the final, making GFG’s defence look fragile. In the process, he carried his team Patna Pirates to a record third title in 5 years. Therefore, Dubki King, as he is popularly known, will be an early favourite to win the Player of the Tournament prize.
Teams to look out for
Naturally, the current defending champions are a firm favourites for the title. They had a phenomenal season last year, especially in terms of attack. Patna pirates have retained Pardeep Narwal,Vijay,Jawahar Dagar and Manish, thus retaining the core that won the title last year.
Although they had a forgetful 2017 season, not even making it to the playoffs. They had the most potent attack in the tournament (they splurged 1.29 crores to retain their star raider Rahul Chaudhary). But one thing that let them down was their wasteful defence. Additions of Abozar Mohajermighani, Iran’s right corner defender and his compatriot Farhad Milaghardan, who plays at right cover, instantly make them one of the best defences (and teams) in the league.
The sixth season of the PKL starts from 7th October. The Pro Kabaddi League will start with a bang, as two derbies will take place that day. At 20:00 IST, hosts Tamil Thalaivar will take on rivals Telugu Titans at the Jawaharlal Nehru indoor Stadium, Chennai. It will be followed by another derby match between Puneri Paltan and U Mumba, at 21:00 IST.
For full schedule of the Pro Kabaddi League 2018, refer here.