A great deal of precautionary measures were put into place for Season 8 of the Pro Kabaddi League. Held behind closed doors – from start to finish – in a Bengaluru hotel for the bubble to tackle Covid-19, kabaddi’s marquee tournament marched on per schedule and saw Dabang Delhi win their first ever title.
This year though, for the first time since the 2019-20 season, PKL welcomes back crowds to the stadia. Three cities – Bengaluru, Pune and Hyderabad – will host the event.
The main characters of the PKL story remain the same, as 12 franchises will compete for the Season 9 title. There have, however, been a few changes in their respective rosters after the auctions were held in August.
The auction came up with the biggest recruitment ever in PKL history. A new record was set as ‘Hi-flyer’ Pawan Sehrawat was bought by the Tamil Thalaivas for a whopping Rs 2.26 crore.
As the budgets for teams were increased from Rs 4 crore each to Rs 4.4 crore, teams had more legroom to break the bank when the players went under the hammer.
Top 5 recruits for Season 9
| Pawan Sehrawat|| Tamil Thalaivas|| Rs 2.26 crore|
| Vikas Kandola|| Bengaluru Bulls|| Rs 1.7 crore|
| Fazel Atrachali|| Puneri Paltan|| Rs 1.38 crore|
| Guman Singh|| U Mumba|| Rs 1.21 crore|
| Sunil Kumar|| Jaipur Pink Panthers|| Rs 90 lakh|
Here’s a quick look at each of the 12 teams
Since the emergence of Naveen Kumar, Dabang Delhi has been one of the most consistent teams in the PKL. There has however been an over-reliance on the young raider to the point that the team stuttered a bit when he was side-lined last season due to injury. And now he’s been named captain of the team. Keeping him fit will be crucial for the defending champions.
Last year’s runner-ups were ruthless in defence, and they owed it to the stellar performance of left-back defender and PKL debutant Mohammadreza Shadloui Chiyaneh. The charismatic Iranian picked up 89 tackle points last year and will simply get better with experience.
Pardeep Narwal – PKL’s most explosive raider – spearheads the Yoddhas again this season. He had a slow start in the last campaign, allowing Surender Gill to make his mark on the league. This time their already strong defensive lineup is bolstered by Abozar Mighani’s arrival on the right corner. And they’ve brought in Nitin Tomar.
The Giants have employed the services of Ram Meher Singh – the former Patna Pirates coach who had led the team to back-to-back titles in Season 4 and 5. In Chandran Ranjith, they have a talented raider as captain, but one who has generally been employed as second-fiddle.
In Randhir Singh Sehrawat, the Bulls are the only team who have had the same coach from the first season in 2014 till now. And the head coach has unearthed quite a few gems during PKL. He had first spotted Pardeep Narwal, and then Pawan Sehrawat blossomed under his tutelage. Though the latter is no longer in their ranks, the Bulls did spent Rs 1.7 crore to bring in Vikas Kandola, another quality raider.
The team just about snuck into the playoff position last season, courtesy their two young raiders Aslam Inamdar and Mohit Goyat. This time they’re bolstered by the presence of master tactician Fazel Atrachali and the handy all-rounder from Iran Mohammad Nabibakhsh. They’re also being guided by new coach BC Ramesh, who won the title with the Bengal Warriors in Season 7.
The JSW-owned team has roped in former Asian Games winner Manpreet Singh to coach the team. He was captain of the Patna Pirates team that won the title in Season 3, and coached the (then) Gujarat Fortune Giants to back-to-back runner-up finishes in Seasons 5 and 6. The Steelers, perennial underachievers, will hope Manpreet can guide them to better results.
Jaipur Pink Panthers
All eyes will be on Rahul Chaudhari – once the poster boy of the PKL who has not been in the best form for the past few seasons. At the recent National Games, Chaudhari was instrumental in guiding Uttar Pradesh to the title. JPP will hope that form continues.
Maninder Singh will again headline the Bengal Warriors’ lineup, but they also have the talented and bonafide leader Deepak Hooda in their ranks this year. While Maninder will be expected to continue tearing up defences, Hooda, the India captain – and one of the fittest athletes in the sport – will guide the team on the mat.
Once the team to be beaten, U Mumba has struggled to make it to the playoffs consistently in the past few seasons. They have a new coach this season – debutant Anil Chaprana – who will guide a rather young squad. They also have Guman Singh in their ranks, who they recruited for Rs 1.22 crore during the auction.
Pawan Sehrawat, the most expensive player in PKL history, will don the Thalaivas jersey this time. In the past he almost single-handedly carried the Bulls to Season 6 title. What may be a concern for the team is the depth in the squad – how will others manage if Pawan is off the mat?
Manjeet Chhillar, an Asian Games gold medal winner and champion with Dabang Delhi, has now moved into the coaching role. He’s the assistant coach this time, the right-hand man of head coach Venkatesh Goud. Together they’ll have to see how to bring Siddharth Desai back into consistent form, and how to keep him injury free.
The league starts off in Bengaluru, before moving onto Pune, and later to Hyderabad.
The first match of the season will feature Dabang Delhi against U Mumba. On Day 1 though, there’s also the Bulls taking on the Titans, followed by the Pink Panthers and Yoddhas, at the Shree Kaneerava Stadium.
On October 28, the action moves to the Balewadi Stadium in Pune. The date for the league to arrive in Hyderabad is yet to be confirmed. The second-part schedule will be released by the end of October 2022 as per the organisers.
Just as it was last year, teams play each other twice – amounting to 22 matches each.
The top 6 teams make it to the playoffs stage, with the top 2 going directly into the semifinal.
Teams ranked 3-6 will play one-match eliminators where the winner will move to the semifinal.
Full squads of all teams here.
Full schedule for the season here.
Matches start at 19:30 hrs IST, and will be broadcast live on Star Sports, and streamed on Disney+ Hotstar