Rishank Devadiga predicted the winner of season nine of the Pro Kabaddi League, picking table-toppers Jaipur Pink Panthers as the winners of what has been a rivering and enthralling season of Pro Kabaddi.
In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, Rishank explained why he picked the Pink Panthers as the winners for PKL 9, crediting their success to the raiding of Arjun Deshwal and V Ajith Kumar along with a solid, young defensive unit.
"Jaipur have a really good chance of winning the trophy because they are really good as a unit. Arjun is playing really well and Ajith has also found his form at the right time. They have Rahul Chaudhari as well who can change the game. Sunil Kumar is leading his team well as a captain and they have some young, dynamic defenders which keeps the pressure built on the opposition raiders. As a unit, Jaipur have been a really strong team this season. I hope this team lifts the trophy."
Rishank tagged the ninth edition of the competition as a 'Season of Youngsters'. He listed down some of the players who have impressed him this season, including Puneri Paltan's raiding trio of Mohit Goyat, Aslam Inamdar and Akash Shinde. He also believes that Narender, Bharat and Ankush have done enough for the Kabaddi fraternity to notice them.
"This has been a 'season of youngsters'. A lot of youngsters have impressed me this season. Bharat has been outstanding for the Bengaluru Bulls. Aslam Inamdar, Mohit Goyat and Akash Shinde have been really impressive for Puneri Paltan. Narender has led the Thalaivas raiding well and has brought them into a terrific position despite Pawan's absence. Ankush from the Pink Panthers has been impressive and is amongst the best in the league. These players have been the find of the season"
"The spark was missing from the side" - Rishank Devadiga reasons out why U Mumba could not qualify
A former U Mumba player himself, Rishank presented his analysis of the side, which was not given much of a chance following the auction. He believes that Surinder Singh's injury hurt their chances as the side lost their spark after Surinder failed to take the mat in their last few games.
"I was very positive about U Mumba this season. Only in their first game that they played, I felt that this team might not be able to make it big. However, the players stepped up and showed unity. They played well but in the last few games, after Surinder Singh's injury, the spark was missing from the side. Although they played decently, they lost some close matches that they should have won. That is perhaps why their spot in the playoffs did not materialize.
"If they would have won those close matches, they would have surely been a part of the playoffs and would have made an impact to the league since the side was really good as a unit. Surinder Singh's absence was problematic but apart from that, they were a really good side."
Rishank, who was seen leading the U.P. Yoddhas earlier, picked 'Captain Cool' Anup Kumar as his favourite skipper - stating that he has learnt a plethora of things, including the ability to read the game, from Anup.
"My favourite captain is Anup Kumar since I have learnt a lot from him. I learnt how to read the game from him. We have watched him and learnt a lot so he has been my favourite captain."
Lastly, Rishank also revealed what his all-time Pro Kabaddi seven would look like, picking U Mumba's initial squad as the one. He believes that the league has not seen a team as strong as that since and although he could add youngsters to his all-time seven, he'd stick to the side with which he won the championship in Season 2.
"It is a very difficult question. My all-time seven would be U Mumba's starting seven in Seasons 1, 2 and 3. For me, personally, that is my all-time seven. But now, there are many young players who I can add to that list but I would like to go with that team because we have not seen a team as strong as that in the Pro Kabaddi League so far.
The Pro Kabaddi 2022 final will be played between the Jaipur Pink Panthers and the Puneri Paltan at the Dome @ NSCI, SVP Stadium in Mumbai on December 17, where Rishank Devadiga will be seen providing his expert analysis.