The Pro Kabaddi League is back with its sixth season, spanning three months - from October 7 to January 5. With that come expectations, and with expectations come several storylines to look forward to. ESPN lists down a few.
The tale of the new captains
Season 6 will see a bunch of new captains - UP Yoddha will be led by Rishank Devadiga, Telugu Titans by youngster Vishal Bhardwaj, Puneri Paltan will be captained by Girish Ernak, Delhi Dabang by Joginder Narwal and finalists Gujarat Fortune Giants by Sunil Kumar. What is interesting is that instead of going for more seasoned players, these teams have opted for relatively young, emerging, players as their leaders. This opens up the possibility of fresher ideas, tactics and probably a new approach that would give these teams a new direction.
Say hello to the first foreign coach
PKL was always an Indian league, with Indian players and coaches ruling the roster. This year, however, the league has seen a little twist in their usual list with U Mumba hiring Amir Gholamreza Mazandarani -- the man behind Iran's Asian Games gold -- as the head coach. It will be interesting to see how the Indian players, who have never worked with a foreign coach before, fare with Mazandarani at the helm.
Will the crorepatis conquer?
The highest bid in Season 5 was 93 lakh for Nitin Tomar. It was considered to be a huge deal back then for a kabaddi player. Come 2018 and we saw the amount increase - not for one but for six players who ended up getting more than a crore as bids. Tomar, though, failed to live up to his billing last season - his team UP Yoddha, didn't qualify for the final. Whether or not Monu Goyat, Rishank Devadiga, Rahul Chaudhari, Deepak Niwas Hooda, Tomar himself and Fazel Atrachali deliver sufficient returns on investments for their respective teams will be a storyline worth waiting for.
Increased reliance on foreign players?
The Asian Games this year brought with it a paradigm shift for the Indian team, as well as kabaddi in general. India, who were the unbeaten champions of the Games since its introduction in 1990, lost the gold medal for the first time ever to Iran. Moreover, they also lost to South Korea in the early stages of the tournament. With results like that, international players like Atrachali - the captain of U Mumba, Abozar Meghani, and Jang Kun Lee are expected to get more prominence in the PKL this year. More newcomers from foreign countries are likely to be a part of the starting seven as rotations take place.
Sixth time lucky for Delhi?
Among all the eight teams that have been a part of the PKL since the first season, Delhi Dabang have been the only one to have never made the play-offs. With a fresh team led by new captain Joginder Narwal and a balanced side comprising in-form defender Vishal Mane, who had impressed last season in his outing with the Patna Pirates, and senior players like Meyraj Sheikh and Shabeer Bapu, the team will be hoping to finally do away with the drought this year.
Can we have a new winner please?
There have been just three teams who have emerged winners in the previous five seasons of the PKL - Jaipur Pink Panthers (Season 1), U Mumba (Season 2) and Patna (Seasons 3, 4, and 5). With new squads, emerging raiders, new defensive combinations and coaching methods being adopted this year, Season 6 might just bring about a fourth name in the winner's list.