Haryana Steelers was a franchise that entered Pro Kabaddi with a lot of fanfare as it represented the state of Haryana that supplied the most number of players to the league. Owned by the JSW Sports group, the Steelers meant business from the word go.
Entering the league in the fifth season as one of the four new franchises, the Steelers had a good mix of experience and youth. The potent corner combination of Surender Nada and Mohit Chhillar, considered the best in India at the time, formed the core strength of the team. Boosted by emerging raiding talents like Vikas Khandola, Steelers reached the playoffs in their first season and it needed record-breaking heroics of Pardeep Narwal to knock them out.
The Haryana side made a big statement ahead of their second season when they broke the bank to buy Monu Goyat in the auctions at a record price of Rs 1.54 crore. However, the acquisition failed as Steelers struggled to make a mark in Season 6, finishing bottom of their zone, winning just six matches out of the 22.
A new-looking Haryana Steelers side with legendary player Rakesh Kumar replacing Rambir Singh Khokhar as the coach will look to regain the heights of their debut campaign.
Past record of Haryana Steelers in Pro Kabaddi
|Season 5||Lost 69-30 in first Eliminator to eventual winners Patna Pirates.|
|Season 6||Did not qualify for playoffs. Finished bottom of Zone A with just six wins all season|
After the big splurge in 2018, Steelers revised their strategy in the 2019 auction and adopted a measured approach. Retaining Vikas Khandola and young raider Vinay, the Haryana side spent majority of their money on experienced heads. Their most expensive purchase was Prashanth Kumar Rai for Rs 77 lakh, a former player that was key to their debut season heroics. In defence, they acquired the veteran Dharmaraj Cheralathan whose experience was vital for U Mumba last season and another cover defender Vikas Kale. Both players cost them a combined price of Rs 72.75 lakh. Thus, in the money spent on Goyat last season, Steelers bought the spine of their team.
The Steelers spent the remaining purse on young, but relatively unknown players, a strategy that worked wonders for many teams last season.
The Steelers have a formidable raiding unit and will heavily depend on their raiding quartet for scoring points in the upcoming season. Led by Khandola and Rai, the Steelers have fine supporting raiders in young Naveen who impressed last season and K Selvamani who would be raring to go after injuries disrupted his previous two seasons.
Khandola was among the top ten raiders last season, scoring 172 points in 22 games but lacked support from the other end. But with Rai, who himself scored 144 points last season, Steelers boast a raiding unit that can keep any defence on their toes.
The defence is a clear area of concern for the Steelers who don’t have proven corner defenders in their ranks. Even in cover positions, the performances of Cheralathan and Kale haven’t been very inspiring in the last few seasons. While they have made up for the inexperience in their squad that hurt them last edition, lack of quality all-rounders will make it hard for Rakesh Kumar to have balance in the team.
Rakesh Kumar is one of the biggest names in the sport and comes with a great playing career behind him, having won three Asian Games gold medals with India. His Pro Kabaddi career may not have scaled those highs but he was an instrumental player in the initial years of the league.
His inexperience as a coach could be a concern for the Steelers, but his sheer persona is certain to get the young Haryana Steelers excited for the upcoming season. Rakesh would be hoping to replicate Manpreet Singh – the Gujarat Fortunegiants coach – another former player who achieved great success with a young side. With the absence of star names, Rakesh Kumar could actually be the Steelers’ X-factor.
Player to watch out for: Naveen
One of the finds of last season. Injuries to key player forced then coach Khokhar to put young Naveen in the mix. The raider responded to the coach’s call and cemented his place in the side. He scored 102 points last season. Coach Rakesh Kumar will hope to groom him into an even better player this season.
Raiders: Amirhossein Maleki (Iran), Arun Kumar HN, Naveen, Prashanth Kumar Rai, Vikas Khandola, Selvamani K, Vikas Chhillar, Vinay
Defenders: Ravi Kumar, Vikas Kale, Sunil, Dharmaraj Cheralathan, Parveen, Subhash Narwal, Vikram Khandola, Chand Singh, Kuldeep Singh
All-rounders: Tin Phonchoo (Thailand)