The stage is set for the sixth edition of the Pro Kabaddi League opened at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indooor stadium in Chennai on Sunday.
Patna Pirates, winner of the last three editions starts as the favourites, while Gujarat Fortunegiants, Bengal Warriors, Puneri Paltan and Jaipur Pink Panthers will be among the sides aiming to dethrone the champions.
Patna Pirates captain Pardeep Narwal said the team had prepared well for the new season and aimed to win the title again.
"This season I have worked on multiple strategic moves to counter our opponents. For Patna Pirates, one of the most challenging teams we believe is Puneri Paltan because their defence is very strong. I look forward to the season and I am going to take the trophy home this time," he added.
Meanwhile, Tamil Thalaivas after a poor outing in PKL-5, is primed for a good show. Captain Ajay Thakur said the team had a nice balance and can be expected to challenge the other outfits.
"In the previous season our team composition was heavy on youngsters. So, if it happened that I was not on the mat, taking instant decisions was tough.
This year, the team has a perfect balance of young and experienced players, we have Manjeet Chillar, Jasvir Singh and Sukesh Hegde who can take phenomenal decisions at the spur of the moment during the match," he added.
UP Yoddha captain Rishank Devadiga said with an extended season the focus would be on fitness as the league has been extended to three months.
"Earlier the season was shorter, and the chances of injury were higher as players prove their mettle on the mat each day. With a 3-month long league, there is enough break periods for players to rest and recuperate.
The challenge in a longer league is to maintain a certain level of fitness consistently which is what we at UP Yoddhas are training for," he added.
Gujarat Fortunegiants coach Manpreet Singh said the players had trained well and were looking to go one better and win the trophy this time.
"The players have had good preparation. We don't have star players but we have enough quality to do well," he added.
The Dabang Delhi
To put together the team is full of players that mirror the franchise's current state. The Delhi outfit is desperate to end the streak of league stage exits. Similarly, the leading stars in the current side have a task on their hands to regain their elite status in the league after below-par campaigns in the past.
Puneri Paltan have carried an aura of champions at many points in the previous three seasons of Pro Kabaddi, but haven't been able to deliver the goods when it matters the most. Two third-place finishes followed by fourth place last season, showcases the franchise's agonising journey in recent campaigns.
As season six approaches, the Puneri Paltan side, once again, look very formidable on the paper. Few would bet against the Lions reaching the playoffs
Patna Pirates go again! Their incredible reign as defending champions of Pro Kabaddi is set to enter another intriguing chapter, a third one to be precise. In these three years, players have come and gone, coaches have been moved on, but Pirates have managed to find a winning formula.
Patna's time at the pinnacle of the competition coincided with the arrival of a young, sprightly raider that took the league by storm in a matter of weeks and never looked back again. Three years hence, Pardeep Narwal – now a household name in the sport – is inching ever closer to becoming the league's most successful raider and has been the magical element in Patna's success that no team in the league has come to terms with.
(High profile eminent writer in sports)