CHENNAI: The Pro Kabaddi League is set to roar back into public consciousness. This time, it promises to be bigger and better. The event will see an expansion this year, in terms of number of teams as well as duration.
While four new teams (Chennai, Lucknow, Ahmedabad and an undecided venue from Haryana) have been added to bring the total to 12, the league itself will be held from July to October, instead of two separate seasons, like last year.
A longer tournament means more time for teams to recover from setbacks. It also means players have to prepare better physically and mentally. Anup Kumar, captain of U Mumba and India’s World Cup-winning skipper, feels players have to adapt.
“There were just a couple of events since we won the World Cup last October, so we’re all just getting back into the groove. Those of us who have already played in the PKL have to adapt to the longer format. It won’t be easy, but we’re professional athletes, and I’m sure this won’t be a problem,” Anup told Express on Thursday.
“Physically, especially, it’ll be a challenge. Any tournament that lasts around four months will be taxing, and once the camp starts after the auctions, we’ve to prepare such that we’re able to cope with whatever demands are placed upon us.”
New teams means fresh auctions, which will take place on May 22 and 23 in New Delhi. Over 350 players, including 131 new faces who took part in trials in Panvel, near Mumbai, from April 18 to May 17, will come under the hammer.
Only seven (Bengal Warriors’ Jang Kun Lee, Bengaluru Bulls’ Ashish Kumar, Dabang Delhi’s Meraj Sheykh, Patna Pirates’ Pardeep Narwal, Puneri Paltan’s Deepak Hooda, Telugu Titans’ Rahul Chaudhari and Anup ) were retained, with Jaipur Pink Panthers being the only team not to do so.
Chennai, owned by Sachin Tendulkar, will finally witness some action, and Anup is looking forward to travelling to new venues.
“It’s a great thing that more teams have been added. It makes competition more intense, and I’m excited to see what kind of crowds we witness in these new venues. Plus, the teams will start afresh, as players will be going into the auctions, so that is an added incentive.”
The 33-year-old is happy with the involvement of celebrities like Sachin. “It’s always good to see celebrity involvement, for they have such a big fan following, and that has a knock-on effect. It’s only going to be good for the league and the sport, the fact that there’ll be more eyes on us. It’s now up to us to put up a great show once the league starts,” he concluded.