The only PKL season 9 preview you need to read


Lights, camera, kabaddi! The Pro Kabaddi League (PKL 9) gets underway on October 7th in Bengaluru's Shree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium. Defending champions Dabang Delhi take on U Mumba in the season-opener. Here's all you need to know.

Pro Kabaddi League 2022-23: All you need to know

Is PKL back to its caravan format with home matches in 12 cities?

Errr...not exactly. The league stage of PKL 9 will be held across three cities - Bengaluru, Pune and Hyderabad, in that order. The venue and dates for the playoffs aren't out yet.

But will fans be allowed?

You bet! The last season was played inside a bio-bubble set up in a hotel in Bengaluru. This time, fans will be back in the stands and that means no more artificial crowd noise. (yay!)

What's the pre-season chatter like?

The Indian players head into PKL 9 after playing in the National Games (the kabaddi event ended exactly six days before the season).

The big takeaway was the return of Rahul Chaudhari, the original Showman, who guided Uttar Pradesh to the crown. Rahul had a poor PKL 8, where he played in just seven games and gathered 13 points at Puneri Paltan. This year, he has been signed on by Jaipur Pink Panthers for his base price of 10 lakhs at the player auctions in August.

Tell us more about what went down at the auctions.

Plenty, I mean PLENTY of ₹₹₹₹₹₹ was spent. Tamil Thalaivas broke the bank and splurged ₹2.26 crore (an eight-digit figure!) to sign the league's best raider in Pawan Kumar Sehrawat. In a bid to replace him, Pawan's former team Bengaluru Bulls also spent big bucks to rope in Vikash Kandola for ₹1.70 crore. Guman Singh was the third-most expensive buy, going to U Mumba for ₹1.22 crore.

Pro Kabaddi League Season 9: Full list of players bought and for what price

Does that mean Tamil Thalaivas have a chance this season?

You could say that....but with a pinch (or a bag) of salt. Tamil Thalaivas are PKL's serial underperformers; they've remained in the bottom two spots in each of the last four editions. Whether Pawan can single-handedly change their fortunes is hard to predict, and it will have a lot to do with how quickly he is revived when he's off the mat. That duty will fall on Sagar Rathee's shoulders.

How do last year's finalists look?

Dabang Delhi, the reigning champions, have yet again adopted an all-defence approach. If it worked for coach Krishan Hooda's team last time, there's no reason to suggest it won't this time. Delhi's 20-man squad is 60% made up of defenders, led by Sandeep Dhull and Ravi Kumar. With the influx of a couple of youngsters, Dabang Delhi has shed its tag of 'Dad's Army'; the defence's average age last season was 35.2 years.

Speaking of youngsters, Naveen Kumar is still the side's leading raider and he was retained under the "Young Player" category. Can you believe last season's MVP is still a young player? Pshaw! Dabang Delhi could become only the second team to defend their title, but a lot will depend on how the defence holds. Three-time champions Patna Pirates, to nobody's surprise, retained Iranian powerhouse Mohammadreza Chiyaneh. (Why wouldn't they?) Once the home of Pardeep Narwal, the Pirates will now bank on Sachin Tanwar and Rohit Gulia to win them raid points. The Pirates also have a new coach in Ravi Shetty, who had powered U Mumba to the title in PKL 2. Can he take the Pirates back to glory days?

What about other coaching changes?

Gujarat Giants replaced Manpreet Singh with PKL's's most-successful coach - Ram Mehar Singh. He steered Patna Pirates to three titles and will hope to end the Giants' final jinx. Manpreet has now taken over the coaching reins at Haryana Steelers from Rakesh Kumar, while Bengal Warriors, champions of PKL 7, have appointed K Baskaran as their coach. Puneri Paltan, who did really well last season, let go of Anup Kumar for their former coach BC Ramesh, while Telugu Titans will be coached by Venkatesh Goud. Anil Chaprana has taken over as head coach at U Mumba.

So wait, Anup Kumar and Rakesh Kumar, two of India's best players, aren't coaches this time?

That's right.

What went wrong?

Rakesh Kumar's Haryana Steelers failed to make it to the playoffs...that sums it up.

The side looked a tad disjointed and banked a lot on individual brilliance. That should change with Manpreet's arrival. He is known for his defensive combinations and has a good squad to work with: young Jaideep Kuldeep was among the top defenders last season, while Joginder Narwal brings in decades of experience. The Steelers spent the least money at the auction, but signed on Amirhossein Bastami (₹65.1L), Manjeet (₹80L), Nitin Rawal (₹37.5L), and K. Prapanjan (₹10L), to fortify their side.

Elsewhere at Puneri Paltan, it remains a mystery as to why Anup was not retained. But they are in capable hands under BC Ramesh. The Paltan will look to build on their dream PKL 8 season, where they were powered by their dynamic young raiders Aslam Inamdar and Mohit Goyat. They are in an enviable position with two of the most sought-after Iranians: Fazel Atrachali and Mohammad Esmaeil Nabibakhsh.

So should we consider Paltan as a dark horse?

Definitely. With a squad like that and Fazel's leadership, they've got what it takes to win their first title.

Who else could spring a surprise?

In my books, Telugu Titans. They've had two miserable seasons - 12th in PKL 8 and 11th in PKL 7 - but their current squad promises refreshing change. I'd stick my neck out to say they have the most balanced squad this season. In the raiding department, they've signed Abhishek Singh, who averaged 170+ points in the last two seasons, and veteran Monu Goyat. Plus, Siddharth Desai was brought back and Ankit Beniwal and Rajnish, who did well last season, were retained. Their defence has Vishal Bhardwaj [plus/or] Parvesh Bhainswal in the left-corner, Ravinder Pahal at right-cover and another right-cover in Surjeet Singh. Make what you may of that!

Who else has a standout raiding lineup-up?

Jaipur Pink Panthers - Arjun Deshwal, V Ajith Kumar and an in-form Rahul Chaudhari. The PKL 1 champions, who have for long been starved of success, will hope to make it count.

What about Pardeep Narwal?

Ah yes, the Dubki King. Last season, he was average at best but showed glimpses of his prowess. UP Yoddha will hope there will be more than just glimpses this season. He will have support from Surender Gill, while the defence will be marshalled by one of the best corner duos in the country - Nitesh Kumar and Sumit. UP Yoddha have made it to the playoffs on four consecutive appearances. Could they be fifth-time lucky?

What about the home team for the first leg?

Bengaluru Bulls! The squad is more or less the same except for the one big arrival: Vikash Kandola. Vikash has some massive, Pawan Sehrawat-sized shoes to fill but is no stranger to winning matches; he has been among the top-10 raiders over the last three seasons and Steelers' best. Plus, he'll have support from Bharat and Neeraj Narwal. Fun fact: Bengaluru Bulls retained 10 players for PKL 9 and eight of those were defenders. With left-corner Saurabh Nandal and Mahender Singh forming the core of the defence, the Bulls will be hoping to make a statement starting on home soil.

And the other teams?

U Mumba, champions of PKL 2, are in dire need of a title. They begin PKL 9 with a fresh young squad that will depend on Guman Singh's raids and Rinku's tackles, alongwith the Iranian duo of Heidarali Ekrami [raider] and Gholamabbas Korouki [all-rounder] to add firepower.

Two-time runners-up Gujarat Giants are also in the mix with their ultra-defensive set-up. Baldev Singh and Rinku Narwal in defence, skipper Chandran Ranjit, Rakesh and Pardeep Kumar in attack...it's a well-balanced unit. And then there is the South Korean raider Dong Geon Lee. Watch out for him, he's quick, real quick.

Wrapping up the list are PKL 7 champions Bengal Warriors. They retained star raider Maninder Singh and roped in India captain Deepak Niwas Hooda, while also signing solid defenders in Girish Ernak and Surender Nada. The Warriors, at the very least, should make it to the playoffs.