As the second season of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) began on an exciting note in Mumbai on Saturday, hosts U Mumba beat defending champions Jaipur Pink Panthers 29-28 in a thrilling match at the NSCI Stadium. In the second match of the PKL, Bengaluru Bulls defeated Bengal Warriors 33-25. The second season is expected to catch more popularity and financial gains after the success of the inaugural season of the PKL last year. The presence of stars along with glitz and blitz on the rings resulted in stadiums packed with fans. Season 2 had its own charm this time with Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan singing the National Anthem.
This Season is Different
Kabaddi is no more the mud game! Playing kabaddi indoor on synthetic mats rather than outdoor in mud pitches was a new concept and attracted a large number of people. It has made its niche in every Indian heart and with every season, it is expected to go a level higher. The successful eight-team PKL has given a new dimension to the rural sport that is also an Asian Games discipline in which India won its only gold medal in the 1990 Beijing Asian Games.
This season is different – squad strength of each team has been amplified from 14 to 25 in order to discover new and young talent as well as to prevent injuries to the players. Talking about the PKL’s first leg, it will be held from July 18 to July 22 and then shift to Kolkata, which is Bengal Warriors’ home. Afterwards, the league will progress to Jaipur, Patna, Hyderabad, Delhi, Bengaluru and Pune. The league will come back to Mumbai when the semifinals will be played on August 21 followed by the final on August 23. With the prize money doubled from the last season to Rs. 2 crore, the Pro Kabaddi League plans to bring in more international players this time though a green signal from the security authorities is essential before participation from Pakistan or other western neighbours of India. The runners up will take home Rs. 50 lakh, the third position team Rs. 30 lakh and the fourth placed team Rs. 20 lakh.
Sponsors Showing Interest
The first season of the PKL witnessed a record 435 million spectators on TV second next to the Indian Premier League (560 million) and with this season, it is expected to go higher. Though the viewership on TV has been promising, the teams are yet to get the accurate price on ground. Efforts are being made to improve the players’ worth, increase money involved and most importantly make the sport popular.
The aim is to see the sport reach greater heights and popularity. The PKL will be broadcasted in five languages – Kannada, Telugu, Marathi, English and Hindi across eight channels of the STAR network.
After the inaugural season, the sponsors are showing great interest in connecting with the league. Compared to the last year’s season, which went as low as Rs. 10-15 lakh, this season can see amounts rising up to Rs. 1.5 crore. Jaipur Pink Panthers and U Mumba are expectant of taking the amount to Rs. 6-7 crore and the larger and superior teams aim at Rs. 15 crore.
Telugu Titans will play against Dabang Delhi on July 19 followed by the match between U Mumba and Bengaluru Bulls.
Pro Kabaddi League 2015 Teams
Jaipur Pink Panthers: The defending champions will look forward to take away the title this year as well. The team looks strong with newcomer Sonepat lad Kuldeep Singh, who is known for his defence and raiding abilities. Sonu Narwal is also the strength of the team, who is the 2010 Asian Games gold medallist. The tall player will be able to contribute in congregating bonus points. In a hard-fought match against U Mumba on Saturday, Abhishek Bachchan’s team lost, but it’s just the beginning! A small ambiguity in the right-cover position of the defence side is a thing to worry about, but it is sure that Kuldeep Singh will be able to handle that.
U Mumba: They started with a win over Jaipur Pink Panthers. A good start indeed! In the last year, injuries plagued the squad due to which raider Shabeer Sharfudheen and main defender Jeeva Kumar had to leave midway. K. Prapanjan is expected to take over the responsibility with efficiency. Also, the determined Bhupender Singh is expected to help the squad. Iran skipper Fazel Atrachali will strengthen the defence of the team. Vishal Mane with his defence emerged as the star player on Saturday.
Dabang Delhi: Delhi could have been one of the contenders when it came to wining Season 1, but they could not hold onto the half-leads. Their weakness was losing the spirit midway. However, this season could be different with the inclusion of the diminutive 26-year-old Manikandan, known for the talent of timing his tackles to excellence. At par with players such as Ajay Thakur and Rakesh Kumar, this Tamil Nadu lad will prove to be beneficial for the team.
Bengaluru Bulls: The frog-leap was the most talked about and became a mark associated with Ajay Thakur and Bengaluru’s franchise. Thakur was not available most of the time last season due to illness, making raiding the weakness of the team. The 21-year-old Vinoth Kumar will try to fill this gap in this season of the PKL. Though the youngster is low on experience, he can try to fill the emptiness. In the meantime, experienced Joginder Narwal will boost the defence.
Telugu Titans: The Titans have shelled out almost Rs. 41 lakh to have Iranian all round players – Hadi Oshtorak and Meraj Shaikh. The attack-minded players will lead the team to better performance and it would mean flouting the raiding trio of Sukesh Hegde, Deepak Hooda and Rahul Chaudhari who performed tremendously well in the last season. It was defence that weakened the squad last year, but the signing of Sandeep Dhull, who is well-known for his powerful ankle-hold, will make a difference on the defence side this season.
Patna Pirates: India and Pakistan Captains Rakesh Kumar and Waseem Sajjad were part of the lineup in the inaugural season. The absence of a third raider when Rakesh got injured was felt. The signing of 20-year-old Deepak Narwal and Santosh Singh will make a difference this time. On the defensive side, 30-year-old Pradeep Kumar will strengthen the ranks.
Puneri Paltan: Finishing at the bottom of the table last year, they had an ordinary team with Captain Wazir Singh almost pleading for support that he never received from the team. This time, they have a totally new look, with 14 new players in the team of 25. On the attacking side, Wazir will be assisted by raider Yogesh Hooda, while Vijendra Singh will assist Nitin More on the defensive front. Competent Manoj Dhull will be an added strength to the defenders.
Bengal Warriors: With the presence of competitive players in the squad, a tough leader was the weak point. The swift and dominant Nitin Madane brought bonus points along with flourishing raids and Jang Kun Lee from South Korea performed well, but it wasn’t enough. So, the second season will see the 34-year-old Dinesh Kumar, the gold medallist in the 2002 and 2006 Asian Games, bring unity on court. Popularly called ‘Dada’, the 2010 Arjuna Awardee Dinesh Kumar will prove to be beneficial. Vikas Kale is another inclusion who will make an impression. He will bring stability to the incompatible defence.
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