For the sixth time in the nine seasons of the Pro Kabaddi League, the top two teams in the group stage have made it to the final. The Jaipur Pink Panthers topped the 12-team round robin and will face Puneri Paltan in the summit clash on Saturday, at the NSCI Stadium in Mumbai.

The way both teams played and won their respective semifinals was a firm representation of the way they’ve played throughout the season.

The Pink Panthers came up with a massive 49-29 win over the Bengaluru Bulls in their semifinal on Thursday – courtesy a powerful display in defence and V Ajith putting in an impressive performance while raiding. Meanwhile, the Paltan beat the Tamil Thalaivas 39-37 after yet another all-round performance by the team in a thriller.

Jaipur Pink Panthers road to final

Stage Opponent Result
Semifinal Bengaluru Bulls Won 49-29
Group stage 15 wins in 22 matches. Finished 1st.

Points: 82
Score difference: +174

Puneri Paltan’s road to final

Stage Opponent Result
Semifinal Tamil Thalaivas Won 39-37
Group stage 14 wins in 22 matches. Finished 2nd

Points: 80
Score difference: +66

Ahead of the final – the fourth that will be held at the NSCI – here’s a look at the key points that could shape up the title decider.

Contrasting styles

Throughout the season, the Pink Panthers have relied on the heroics of their star raider Arjun Deshwal and ruthless left corner Ankush Rathee – both set to bag the season’s best raider and defender awards.

Deshwal has picked up 290 raid points from 232 successful raids while Rathee has 86 tackle points from 82 successful tackles.

Jaipur’s line-up is built on Deshwal’s talent in attack, and a cohesive defensive structure that also features captain Sunil Kumar and Sahul Kumar.

The Paltan, meanwhile, have fielded the youngest team in the league this term – an average age of 22 – with several players being promoted into the main squad from their Yuva Paltan youth academy. Leading the team though, is the second-oldest player in the squad, Fazel Atrachali.

The 30-year-old is a master tactician and a strong leader who has been guiding and motivating his players throughout the season.

While the Pink Panthers have dominated the individual statistics charts – the top player in eight of the 11 individual categories provided by the PKL website is a JPP player – the Paltan have relied on everyone on the mat chipping in with points to pick up a win.

Great depth

Pune’s two main raiders Aslam Inamdar and Mohit Goyat missed the semifinal due to suspected injuries, yet the team banked on youngsters Akash Shinde and Pankaj Mohite – the latter picking up an impressive 16 points. Then there was Gaurav Khatri, in his first PKL season, coming up with four important tackle points from the right corner position.

They also have 31-year-old Iranian Mohammad Esmaeil Nabibakhsh (Pune’s oldest player) who is an able all-rounder.

As for the Pink Panthers, though Rathee and Deshwal have dominated most charts, theirs is a team with plenty of firepower on offer. In the attacking department, seasoned Rahul Chaudhari has been chipping in with impressive raids while V Ajith caught the Bulls off-guard on Thursday.

“We built all our strategies on Arjun Deshwal. When we last played Jaipur, Ajith had not scored much,” rued Bulls coach Randhir Sigh Sehrawat in the post-match press conference.

“The other thing is we knew they had two strong defenders, Ankush and Sunil – just be careful with them. Now today, Sahul played so well (he picked up 10 tackle points). So, the strategies didn’t work.”

Meanwhile the Panthers also have a strong foreign player in Iranian defender Reza Mirbagheri.


In Season 9, Atrachali became the league’s most successful defender, taking his tally to 421 tackles points from 397 successful raids over his career. And this in a season where he hasn’t been throwing in the powerful challenges fans have been accustomed to seeing from him. His role has shifted a notch due to his responsibility as captain of a young team.

“You cannot play for yourself. I can’t go for tackles because in my head I know it’s a risk. If I’m out, maybe my team can get all-out, or the team gets under pressure,” he told in an earlier interview.

“Sometimes I do go for the tackle when it’s needed, but most times I’m thinking more about the team. Others ask me why you don’t try for High-5 or something, but I know the team is more important.”

En route to leading the team to the final though, he did become the most successful captain in PKL history by overtaking Anup Kumar’s record of 52 matches won as skipper. Atrachali’s tally is currently on 56 wins from 95 matches, but he’s hoping to make it one better as he’s gunning for his first PKL title as a captain – he’s already won the league with U Mumba and the Patna Pirates.

Meanwhile, his opposite number on Saturday is another stellar defender with an impressive record as captain. Sunil Kumar is currently the league’s third best captain ever, with 47 wins from 83 matches.

Aiming for history

On paper, there may be a sense of déjà vu for the Pink Panthers. They won PKL’s inaugural season by beating U Mumba in Mumbai. On Saturday, they will be competing in that same venue, hoping to become only the second team after the Patna Pirates to win multiple titles.

This is the third final for the Jaipur-based team.

Meanwhile the Paltan are in the summit clash for the first time.

The two teams have their own unique traits but they have gotten this far as the two best in the league. On Saturday, one of them will be crowned champions.