Pro Kabaddi League 2019 is going to be played with a new format which seems fairer and should help in making the contest for the playoffs even closer. Instead of being divided into Zones, PKL 2019 will see every team play the other twice.
No team will have the advantage of being in a ‘weaker’ zone or be able to avoid certain players.
There have also been some big moves made in the Pro Kabaddi League 2019 auction. A lot of teams have added some missing pieces to their squads while a couple of them have gone for a complete overhaul.
As for betting on kabaddi, we have seen more bookmakers looking to cover the tournaments this year. 1xBet has come out with odds very early, while Betrally India is a great option for those looking to bet from India.
We have no doubt that Pro Kabaddi League 2019 is going to be a season to remember. Let's take a look at each of the team’s in detail.
The Bengal Warriors continue to look for that elusive PKL title. They have never won the title or in fact, made it to the grand final. The team has only managed to make it to the playoffs three times, where on two occasions it failed to win a single match.
It is clear that the Bengal Warriors need some serious changes in its tactics and it appears the team management had that in mind when they went to the auctions.
The Bengal Warriors retained Maninder Singh who has been the best raider for the team by a fair distance. Surprisingly, the Bengal Warriors opted not to retain PO Surjeet Singh or Ran Singh as the team management decided to bring in some new blood.
Baldev Singh made his debut in the PKL last season and clearly impressed his team because he has been retained for PKL 2019 as well.
There was a lot of excitement about Mohammad Esmaiel Nabibakhsh coming into the auction and a lot of teams were vying for him. The Iranian all-rounder has never played in the PKL before but is an Asian Games Gold Medalist and very highly rated.
The Bengal Warriors paid 77.75 lakhs for a player who is an unknown quantity and only time will show whether this move is going to be a genius acquisition or a major blunder. While the focus is going to be on Maninder Singh and Mohammad Nabibakhsh, we think the Bengal Warriors made a very smart play in picking K Prapanjan.
Prapanjan was instrumental in the Gujarat Fortunegiants success last year and will add a lot of depth to the raiding unit. A lack of support for Maninder Singh was one of the glaring issues in the Bengal Warriors last season and they seem to have rectified that.
A similar smart addition is defender Jeeva Kumar. He is versatile, can play both corners, and is a specialist in Super Raid situations. With Baldev Singh and Rinku Narwal in the defense also, the Bengal Warriors are looking like a very well-balanced team.
If Coach Ramesh can work his magic with the defense of the Bengal Warriors then we could see another playoff run for them in PKL 2019.
The winners of Vivo Pro Kabaddi 2018 are going to have their work cut out for them this season. The team has managed to retain most of its title-winning squad but we believe they are going to be missing some very important ingredients which made them successful.
Let's start with the positives:
Pawan Kumar Sehrawat can justifiably lay claim to being the most talented raider in the Vivo Pro Kabaddi League. He does not have the physical attributes of someone like Siddharth Desai but he does have speed, agility, and impeccable timing on the mat.
He was responsible for leading the Bengaluru Bulls to the title last season more so than any other player on the roster.
The Bengaluru Bulls were a feared team because of the three raiders they unleashed on their opponents. Giving support to Pawan Kumar Sehrawat was Kashiling Adake and Rohit Kumar. This season they are going to be without Kashiling Adake since they chose not to retain him ahead of the auction.
It was a strange move to let a player of the caliber of Kashilinhg Adake just walk away. He scored 66 raid points for the Bengaluru Bulls in the previous season and was a superb backup to Rohit Kumar and Pawan Kumar Sehrawat.
Now, the third raider option is untested and an injury to one of the two lead raiders could ruin the entire season for the Bengaluru Bulls.
Mahendar Singh will be leading the defense like he did last season and there is no doubt that the Bengaluru Bulls will be happy to have the bruising frame of Mahendar on the mat. Amit Sheoran, Raju Lal Chaudhary, and Vijay Kumar are going to to be the other players that will form an important part of the defense.
The loss of BC Ramesh as an assistant coach is also going to be a big one. He was instrumental in getting the Bulls defense to its best and not having him this season could have a serious effect.
It looks unlikely to us that the Bengaluru Bulls will be able to repeat their title success from last season.
Season 6 of the Pro Kabaddi season was the most successful one for Dabang Delhi KC in its entire history. It was the first time that the side had managed to qualify for the playoffs and it also managed to win one match in the post-season.
This is the reason why the Dabang Delhi KC management decided to keep the majority of its squad unchanged for PKL 2019.
The raiding unit is going to be led by Naveen Kumar who scored 172 raid points in the previous PKL season. He was in the race to be the highest points-scorer for the majority of the tournament until he fell away a bit at the end.
Dabanag Delhi KC thinks he is one for the future and would like to see him improve further.
Two other players that formed an incisive attack force last season have also been kept together. Meraj Sheykh and Chandran Ranjit were instrumental for Dabang Delhi KC. The presence of these three top-notch raiders is going to ensure that no side can take Dabang Delhi KC lightly.
Any one of the raiders can turn things around on the mat and so Delhi will always have an attacking option at its disposal.
Of course, it is said that a Kabaddi team is only as good as its defense. This is where Dabang Delhi has managed to keep together its experienced trio of Joginder Singh Narwal, Ravindar Pahal, and Vishal Mane.
The team managed to pick up some solid players in the auction. Anil Kumar and Sombir Gulia both played for the Telugu Titans in the previous season and impressed with their defensive play. It is assumed that they will be used as substitutes throughout the tournament unless there is an injury and they have to take on a larger role.
Keeping the side largely unchanged is a positive sign for Dabang Delhi KC The new home and away format of the Pro Kabaddi League is going to reward consistency and as one of the more consistent sides in the PKL last season, Dabang Delhi KC will be hoping to contend for the title.
One of the most consistent and successful teams in PKL history, the Gujarat Fortunegiants will be very keen to get over the final hurdle in their campaign this year. They have been runners up in PKL 2017 and 2018 and have once again put together a strong team.
No other team lost as few matches as the Gujarat Fortunegiants and that can be attributed to their solid defense. This is probably why they have ensured that their cornerstones of defense, Parvesh Bhainswal, and Sunil Kumar have been retained for PKL 2019 as well.
The Gujarat Fortunegiants also retained Sachin Kumar, who along with Siddharth Desai, was the raider of the season last year. Sachin Kumar ended up with 349 points with 14 Super 10’s to his name and was integral to the Gujarat Fortunegiants reaching the final of PKL 2018.
Sachin Kumar is going to be joined by GB More (who played for the Puneri Paltan last year) and Iranian Abolfazi Maghsoudloumahali. More was very good for the Puneri Paltan but was unable to carry the load of the entire team on his shoulders.
We think he is going to be a good fit in the Gujarat Fortunegiants where the limelight is not going to be him alone.
Ruturaj Koravi was bought back in the auction while Sonu Ghlawat was added to the squad for PKL 2019 in order to ensure that the Gujarat Fortunegiants defense does not have any holes in it.
Pankaj and Vinod Kumar have been added as all-rounders to bring flexibility into the side since they can play both defense and offense convincingly.
The Gujarat Forunegiants have managed to keep together their best players and have added some good new ones to the squad for PKL 2019 also. They just need to be wary of injuries to Sachin Tanwar and Parvesh Bhainswal because that could leave a huge hole in their lineup.
The Haryana Steelers bought the most expensive player in PKL history when they paid 1.5cr for Monu Goyat but he was unable to deliver them the success they needed. In fact, not only did the Haryana Steelers not contend for the title, but they also finished dead last in their zone.
The team management has decided to start afresh and has let go of Monu Goyat. They decided to retain Vikash Khandola and added some very good players in the squad around him.
Vikash Khandola has scored 235 points in 31 matches for the Steelers and has the capability lead the raiding unit. They have paired him with Parashat Kumar Rai, another very good raider who helped lead UP Yoddha to the playoffs last season.
The two of them will need to remain fit and gel with each other, something which we believe can happen, to be able to lead Haryana Steelers to the playoffs in Pro Kabaddi 2019.
Selvamani K and Naveen are also good additions to the squad. One of these two players could be in starting seven as the third raider while the other could play backup. The offense for the Haryana Steelers is not built around huge names but it is not going to be short on talent.
The defense is very solid for the Haryana Steelers. Dharmaraj Cherelathan has joined the Haryana Steelers for this season. He is going to be supported by Kuldeep Singh who was brilliant for the Steelers in PKL 6.
With players like Vikas Kale, Sunil Kumar, and Parveen also in the defense, the Haryana Steelers should be quite confident of making life difficult for opposing raiders. One of the weak links in their squad is an absence of all-rounders.
Only Tim Phonchoo is an all-rounder in the true sense and that makes the Haryana Steelers less flexible than its opponents. Hopefully, the team can prevent major injuries to its starting seven, something that a few of them have grappled with in the past.
If they are successful in keeping their best players on the mat then there is no reason why the Haryana Steelers cannot move up in Pro Kabaddi 2019. There seems to be a low chance of them having a chance at the title this year as 1xBet have them dead last with the odds of 20 on them winning the PKL Season 7.
Pro Kabaddi League 2018 was a very disappointing season for the Jaipur Pink Panthers and they will be hoping for some major improvements this time around. They have made a few improvements in the squad as they move on from Anup Kumar, who has retired from the sport.
The two best players from the Jaipur Pink Panthers campaign last season have been retained. Deepak Niwas Hooda, who emerged as the best raider for his side with 196 raid points from 22 matches, and Sandeep Kumar Dhull, who had 67 tackle points to his name, will be leading the challenge for the Jaipur Pink Panthers again.
It is a wise decision to build the squad around two talented youngsters who have already proven themselves in the competition. Deepak Niwas Hooda also seemed to flourish when given the responsibility of the captaincy.
He is going to have a familiar face for company in the raiding department as Ajinkya Pawar also makes it back into the squad for PKL 2019.
Pawar was very good last season as he scored 71 raid points in 17 matches and can expect a much larger role in the team for the upcoming season.
The Pink Panthers also have Nilesh Salunkhe and Deepak Narwal as backup raiders to cover for any injuries, rests or loss of form.
One of the highlights to watch out for in this season will be when Amit Hooda and Sandeep Kumar Dhull team on the defense for the Jaipur Pink Panthers. With Amit Hooda at the right corner and Sandeep Kumar Dhull at the left corner, the opposition raiders are not going to have an easy opening.
It will also allow the Jaipur Pink Panthers to absorb pressure during crunch moments in the matches since there is a tremendous amount of experience between these two.
While this is a good defense, there are still some major holes in it. The cover defensive players are not of the highest quality and could struggle against some of the better raiders.
Overall, the Jaipur Pink Panthers are going to struggle to be able to a second title to their name this season but they are quite capable of pulling off some major upsets.
The most successful team in Pro Kabaddi League history, the Patna Pirates would have been bitterly disappointed at having missed out on the playoffs last season. As winners of the 2016, 2017, and 2018 season, there seemed to be a sense of complacency in the manner that they approached the season last year.
Pro Kabaddi League 2019 is going to benefit greatly from having the Patna Pirates back to their best and fully switched on.
Leading the campaign is going to be Pardeep Narwal, the highest point-scorer in Pro Kabaddi history, and a raider still at the top of his game. We can’t help but think that Pardeep Narwal is going to want to set some records straight and show that he is still as good or better than the new raiders entering the league.
Supporting him in the raiding department is going to be Jang Kun Lee, another Pro Kabaddi veteran who has been playing for the Bengal Warriors for the last five years. The Patna Pirates have also taken a big bet on an unknown Iranian raider, Mohammad Esmaeil Magsodlou, who is a former Asian Games Gold Medallist.
This will be the first season of the Pro Kabaddi League for the Iranian and the Patna Pirates would be hoping for some big things.
Offense was never really a problem for the Patna Pirates, though. The defense is what let it down in the previous season and we don’t see too much of an improvement in that area.
Jaideep, Jawahar Dagar, and new addition Surender Nada will be leading the defense. Neeraj Kumar has also been brought on as right cover while Vias Jaglan is flexible enough to play on either side of the mat.
There are some quality players but there is an overlap of preferred playing positions. This means that some of the players will be playing outside their comfort zone and that could affect their performance.
The Patna Pirates are an aggressive side that is going to come hard at the opponents. In years past, they had the biggest gun to intimidate the others but now the other sides have the ability to hit back as well. If the Patna Pirates are not able to sort out their defense early in Pro-Kabaddi League 2019 then another disappointing season lies in store.
Puneri Paltan lost out narrowly to Dabang Delhi KC in the race to make the playoff in PKL 2018. Now, for the Vivo Pro Kabaddi League 2019, Puneri Paltan will be hoping to make amends.
Puneri Paltan has never won the Pro Kabaddi League title. In fact, after two last-place finishes in the opening two seasons, Puneri Paltan managed to finish third in the next two years but has again descended to the bottom of the pack in recent times.
Nitin Tomar became the most expensive player for Puneri Paltan as it paid a whopping 1.2 Cr for his services. The team management had decided not to retain any player for this season and wanted a complete overhaul of the side.
Anup Kumar has been appointed as the coach for Puneri Paltan and his intent to build an aggressive team seems clear.
Nitin Tomar is going to be joined by Manjeet, Pawan Kumar Kadian, Darshan Kadian, and Emad Sedaghatnia. There is no doubt that the bulk of Puneri Paltan’s fortunes lay on the shoulders of Nitin Tomar but he should have more support this season than last.
Nitin Tomar was injured after a brilliant first half of the group stage in 2018 and that was the end of Puneri Paltan’s chances who was never able to recover after that.
The defense has also got an upgrade. Girish Ernak was one of the bright spots in the Puneri Paltan defense last season and is going to be joined by the immensely experienced PO Surjeet Singh. Having been let go by the Bengal Warriors, PO Surjeet Singh is going to have a point to prove.
His partnership with Girish Ernak could be one of the toughest challenges for the raiders in Vivo Pro Kabaddi League 2019.
Overall, the team has managed to put together a good squad that is headlined by some experienced players and a few promising youngsters to fill up the rest of the places.
They are still dependent on Nitin Tomar and his form will dictate the amount of success Puneri Paltan can expect this season.
No team won as few matches as the Tamil Thalaivas in the entire Vivo Pro Kabaddi league last season. It was a horror season for the Tamil Thalaivas as they got thrashed from the start to the end and became a laughing stock by the end.
Vivo Pro Kabaddi League 2019 gives it an opportunity to redeem itself. Two 6th place finishes in its two Pro Kabaddi seasons till now do not make for happy reading and perhaps this is why the team management has opted to make some big buys.
Ajay Thakur, Manjeet Chillar, and Onyango Obiero were retained before the auction while Rahul Chaudhari, Ran Singh, Mohit Chillar, and others were added in the auction. The end result is a squad that looks quite promising on paper.
Ajay Thakur scored over 200 raid points in PKL 2018 and that is a phenomenal performance by any metric. The fact that his side only managed to win 5 games tells us about the lack of support he got. Ajay Thakur is going to be the lead raider but will be very thankful to have someone like Rahul Chaudhari on his side of the mat.
No player has more points than Rahul Chaudhari in PKL. He was brilliant last season and his partnership with Majeet CHillar and Ajay Thakur is going to be very fun to watch. The backup raiders for the Tamil Thalaivas are underwhelming and they will need the Ajay Thakur-Rahul Chaudhari duo to score the bulk of the points for them in every match.
Any loss of form or injury to either of them is going to be disastrous.
Mohit Chillar will lead the defense for the Tamil Thalaivas and is going to get a big boost in the form of Ran Singh as well. Mohit Chillar did not have a great season in 2018 and will be hoping that he can do better this time around.
The addition of Ran Singh is a big plus. He was brilliant for the Bengal Warriors and is experienced enough to make the entire defense better alongside him. A lot of attention will also be on Ajeeth who got picked up for 31 lakhs in the auction. He has a great India Youth games but is a unknown quantity when it comes to playing in the Pro Kabaddi League.
The Tamil Thalaivas are a good side on paper but they must start well to translate that potential into performance.
The Telugu Titans have been the perennial underachievers in the Pro Kabaddi League. They have never finished above 3rd place in their history and were never a serious threats to the other teams despite having Rahul Chaudhari to lead their attack.
The team management has clearly had enough and has brought in the biggest name in Pro Kabaddi right now to help change its fortunes.
Siddharth Desai is going to be playing for the Telugu Titans after being bought for 1.45 crores in the Vivo Pro Kabaddi League 2019 auction. That is the highest ever amount paid to a payer and almost a third of the entire purse that the Telugu Titans had.
The Titans have also managed to get the coach of U Mumba on its payroll and so it was expected that he would try and recruit a few of his star players from U Mumba.
This second season is going to be a test for Siddharth Desai after he very nearly led U Mumba to the title in 2018. There is no doubt that the other teams would have been working on a strategy to keep Desai in check and will come up with fresh plans.
Siddharth Desai will be joined by Suraj Desai, his elder brother, who has played two seasons of Pro Kabaddi in the past. He is also an exciting raider but is injury prone and that prevented him from reaching his full potential till now.
The Telugu Titans have also managed to keep together the backbone of its defense. Vishal Bhardwaj and Abozar Mohajermighani are superb at their respective corners and have enough experience to threaten any opponent.
It seemed like the Telugu Titans offense was unable to keep pace with its defense at times last season. Hopefully the addition of the Desai brothers will address that gap.
Going so far out for one player has meant that the Telugu Titans are a little short on experience and are going to have a lot of young players on the mat. The idea would be to try and convert this young team into a title-winning one under an experienced coach.
We think Siddharth Desai is going to ensure they remain in the game but to expect just one player to win the title for them is a little optimistic.
U Mumba is a former PKL winner and was one of the most dominant teams in the previous season as well. The team management, though, strangely opted not to retain its ace weapon for Vivo Pro Kabaddi 2019.
They did not retain Siddharth Desai and he has now been snapped by the Telugu Titans.
The absence of Siddharth Desai is going to be a huge setback for U Mumba. Rohit Baliyan and Abhishek Singh will be expected to lead the raiding unit alongside Dong Geon Lee and Athul MS. We don’t think either of them is going to be able to come close to having the impact that Siddharth Desai did but they can still be effective as a unit.
Rohit Baliyan scored 95 points in the previous season and Abhishek Singh was very impressive in the chances that he did receive.
Athul MS and Dong Geon Lee have been around in the PKL for a fair bit as well and that experience is going to come in handy.
U Mumba may not have kept its strike force but its defense is at the top level. Fazel Atrachali is going got be paired up Sandeep Narwal, which is a combination that raiders are going to fear. The hugely talented Subramanian and Surender Singh are also a part of the defense for U Mumba this time.
U Mumba also has three all-rounders in its squad. One is Sandeep Narwal of course, while the other two are Mohit Baliyan and Ajinkya Rohidas Kapre. If needed, these players can slot in either defense or offense and allow U Mumba to be dynamic in its style of play.
Is this a champion team? We don’t think so. U Mumba is coming into 2019 with a squad that is weaker in scoring opportunities and a defense that is as strong as it always was. The addition of Sandeep Narwal is not going to compensate for the loss of Siddharth Desai.
UP Yoddha started their 2018 season quite slowly but roared into form at just the right time. They were faced with a series of must-win matches and almost everyone counted them out. UP Yoddha, however, proved their mettle when it mattered the most.
That experience would have definitely helped UP Yoddha and we think it is going to reflect in this season.
UP Yoddha has managed to keep the core of its team together and added some excellent players to the squad. Monu Goyat joins Shrikanth Jadhav and Rishank Devadiga in forming a potent raiding trio. Jadhav and Devadiga were bought back using the FBM cards showing the faith that UP Yoddha has in these players.
The most important player for UP Yoddha is Nitish Kumar. He became the first player to score over 100 tackle points in a season. His rise to become the leader of the UP Yoddha defense has been spectacular, to say the least.
He was very well supported by Sachin Kumar in the previous season and UP Yoddha ensured that this partnership would not be broken up. The other defenders do not have the same kind of pedigree that Nitesh Kumar and Sachin Kumar have and this is why UP will have to hope that they can recreate these values this year as well.
Objectively, this year’s squad looks better to us than the one UP Yoddha had last year. Its offense is better with the addition of Monu Goyat and that could help it become title challengers.