PKL season 9: Strength, weakness, key players and what to expect from each team

Dabang Delhi KC won their maiden Pro Kabaddi League title last season Pro Kabaddi League

On Friday night, it will be show-time at the Sree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium in Bengaluru, as the ninth instalment of the Pro Kabaddi League kicks off.

Defending champions Dabang Delhi take on U Mumba to open a season that promises to be bigger and better than anything past.

With an eye-catching amount of money spent at the auction, some teams have undergone overhauls, while others have added to an already strong unit.

ESPN charts the strengths and worries that each of the 12 teams have before the season starts in a couple of days.

The only PKL season 9 preview you need to read

Kabaddi home | PKL 9: Full coverage

Bengal Warriors

Coach (NEW): K Baskaran. Proper veteran - won PKL1 with Jaipur Pink Panthers. More recently, coached Tamil Thalaivas.

Player: Maninder Singh. Who else but mighty Mani? The Bengal Warriors' captain, leader, legend.

Strength: A balanced squad with plenty of depth.

Worry: Maninder and Deepak Niwas Hooda are both senior players with tremendous leadership skills... A difference of opinion could pose trouble.

W2W4: The raiding troika of Maninder, Deepak Niwas Hooda and Akash Pikalmunde.

Signing: Deepak Niwas Hooda. National team captain and former Jaipur Pink Panthers skipper. One of the fittest players in the League.

Bengaluru Bulls

Coach: Randhir Sehrawat. Won PKL6. Is the man who made Pawan Sehrawat the phenom he is today.

Player: Vikash Kandola. Has been among the top-10 raiders over the last three seasons and was Haryana Steelers' best raider.

Strength: Defence. Of the 10 players Bengaluru Bulls retained for PKL9, eight were defenders.

Worry: Can Vikash fill the void left by Pawan? Pawan was more than just a raider...he was their captain and a reliable defender.

W2W4: How Bharat performs this year. He played second-fiddle to Pawan last season and did a solid job at it.

Signing: No prizes for guessing, it's Vikash Kandola. Comes into the Bulls squad with a price tag of ₹1.70 crore - he's PKL's second-most expensive player.

Dabang Delhi

Coach: Krishan Kumar Hooda. Among the best in the business, knows how to get the best of his boys.

Player: Naveen Kumar Goyat. Running hand touches, back kicks, dubkis, a 1000-watt smile...you name it he's got it. Rightly called the Naveen Express. Oh and he's been named captain too.

Strength: The defence. And Hooda's philosophy - if it works, I'm not tinkering with it.

Worry: Over-dependence on Naveen. Even though Vijay Malik stepped up when Naveen was injured, Dabang Delhi endured a lull when Naveen was sidelined.

W2W4: Title defence. Only one team has done it. Dabang Delhi can and should become the second.

Signing(s): Sandeep Dhull and Ravi Kumar. Nothing beats the comfort of having two established defenders.

Gujarat Giants

Coach: Ram Mehar Singh. Serial winner. Three-time champion with Patna Pirates. The league's most successful coach. 'Nuff said.

Player: Chandran Ranjit. Was Pawan's deputy at Bulls, will now captain the Giants. Finished runner-up with the Giants in PKL5, will look to wrap up the title this time.

Strength: At the risk of sounding repetitive, the Giants' strength lies in their defence. Baldev Singh, Rinku Narwal AND Sandeep Kandola - that's some serious muscle right there.

Worry: Not having an established raider. Rakesh and Pardeep Kumar did well last season, but they aren't exactly top-flight raiders.

W2W4: How coach Ram Mehar Singh adapts to a new team.

Signing: Hot take, but it's gotta be Dong Geon Lee. The South Korean raider returns to the Giants after four years and this might well be his season.

Haryana Steelers

Coach (NEW): Manpreet Singh. Led Gujarat Giants to two finals. Known for his ultra-defensive lineups. Wears his heart on his sleeve.

Player: Jaideep Kuldeep. One of India's most promising left-covers. Racked up 66 tackle points [4th best in the League] and 5 High 5s [also 4th best in the League].

Strength: Squad depth. No dearth of options in raiding [K. Prapanjan, Vinay, Meetu] and defence [Joginder Narwal, Mohit, Amirhossein Bastami.]

Worry: That they'll fall short of expectations. Yet again.

W2W4: What Amirhossein Bastami brings to the table. The Iranian was signed for ₹65.10 lakhs and is the third-most expensive overseas player in PKL. There's little info on him, but we know that he won the 2019 World Junior Kabaddi Championship.

Signing: Manjeet. Brought in for ₹80 lakhs from Tamil Thalaivas. Scored 167 raid points in PKL8. Big signing.

Jaipur Pink Panthers

Coach: Sanjeev Baliyan. Second season at the helm for him. Needs to help Jaipur Pink Panthers find their glory days.

Player: Arjun Deshwal. Was the second-best raider last season with 267 raid points. Expect nothing less from him.

Strength: The raiding trio of Arjun Deshwal, V Ajith Kumar and Rahul Chaudhari.

Worry: Lack of consistency. They didn't win more than three games in a row last season.

W2W4: Rahul Chaudhari's return to form. The Showman played a vital role in Uttar Pradesh's National Games title triumph last week and sure could use a few points in the PKL. Especially after a miserable PKL 8 at Puneri Paltan, where he was largely benched and managed 13 points in seven games.

Signing: Ajith Kumar. Super fast, super wily. Had a good run with U Mumba last year. Has all the makings of a superstar raider.

Patna Pirates

Coach (NEW): Ravi Shetty. Led U Mumba to the title in PKL2. Has also worked with Jaipur Pink Panthers and Puneri Paltan.

Player: Mohammadreza Chiyaneh, duh. Was PKL8's best defender with 89 tackle points. You don't wanna mess with him.

Strength: The core of the team has been retained...always good to have a few familiar faces around.

Worry: How they cope when Chiyaneh is off the mat.

W2W4: How the team goes about its business after missing out on the PKL8 title by a mere point.

Signing: Sachin Tanwar. Was retained for ₹81 lakhs via the FBM card. Was the side's top raider last year, and will be this year too.

Puneri Paltan

Coach (NEW): BC Ramesh. Won PKL7 with Bengal Warriors. Had coached Puneri Paltan in season five and took them to the playoffs.

Player: Fazel Atrachali. The best overseas player ever in the PKL. And one of the best left-corners the game has seen.

Strength: Their superb raiders - Aslam Inamdar and Mohit Goyat. The duo scored 328 points last season, which amounts to 73% of the team's total raid points.

Worry: None, really. This is one of the best squads in PKL9.

W2W4: The combination of Fazel Atrachali and Mohammad Nabibakhsh. The two Iranians are among the best in the game and have both won the PKL title. Maybe they can win it together now?

Signing: Mohammad Nabibakhsh. A versatile all-rounder, equally good in raiding and in defending. And the owner of that outrageous eight-point raid.

Tamil Thalaivas

Coach (NEW): Udaya Kumar. Remains at the helm despite a horrendous show last season. Needs to deliver this time.

Player: Is that even a question? Pawan Kumar Sehrawat. The Pawan Kumar Sehrawat.

Strength: Pawan Kumar Sehrawat.

Worry: Pawan Kumar Sehrawat off the mat.

W2W4: Pawan Kumar Sehrawat. And Sagar Rathee on the right corner - he was one of the bright spots in Tamil Thalaivas' drab PKL8 campaign.

Signing: Pawan Kumar Sehrawat. ₹ 2.26 core. Hellllo?

Telugu Titans

Coach (NEW): Venkatesh Goud. Local man. Has worked extensively in kabaddi leagues in the region.

Player: Siddharth Desai. Was ruled out early last season due to injury and was signed via the FBM this season for his base price. That ought to have hurt. And he ought to do better this season.

Strength: An unbelievably balanced squad. The best squad in the League this season. A supremely talented raiding unit backed by a terrific defensive set-up.

Worry: That this squad is too talented?

W2W4: Manjeet Chhillar is the side's assistant coach...he makes his first foray into coaching after winning the title as a player last season with Dabang Delhi.

Signing: Abhishek Singh. Comes in from U Mumba, where he averaged 170+ points in the last two seasons.

U Mumba

Coach (NEW): Anil Chaprana. This will be his first season as head coach.

Player: Rinku. The right corner picked up 60 tackle points last season and will be looking to build on that.

Strength: A fairly young squad that will be hungry for success.

Worry: The lack of big names, really. The side's lead raider Guman Singh is still young and needs time to properly establish himself, while the defence is led by Surinder Singh who had a disastrous run with Telugu Titans. And the lack of a leader in the team.

W2W4: The Iranian duo of Heidarali Ekrami [raider] and Gholamabbas Korouki [all-rounder] are fairly unknown entities. U Mumba has been led by an Iranian for the longest time [Fazel]. Maybe one of them could step up to fill his shoes?

Signing: Guman Singh. Comes in on a hefty price tag of ₹1.22 crore. With great price tags come great expectations.

UP Yoddha

Coach: Jasveer Singh. He remains in charge and would really want at least a spot in the final this season.

Player: Pardeep Narwal. The League's best raider of all-time. The dubki king. Needs to find his mojo this season. Watch out for young Surender Gill too!

Strength: The watertight defensive unit of Nitesh Kumar and Sumit. And Abozar Mighani's arrival adds more firepower in defence.

Worry: Pardeep Narwal. When he's on song, he's brilliant. When he's not, he's agonizing to watch.

W2W4: UP Yoddha have made it to the playoffs on four consecutive appearances. A fifth appearance is a minimum and a title is a necessity.

Signing: Nitin Tomar. A proper all-rounder. He's a very capable raider and a muscleman you'd want while defending.