There was a lot of talk around Puneri Paltan in Pro Kabaddi League Season 7 as veteran Anup Kumar was about to begin his coaching career with them. Kumar is known for his steady approach and it was expected that his team would reflect the same. But it wasn’t to be.
Pune never looked at ease and performed in bits and pieces throughout the season. Lack of coordination and recurring injuries were the main reasons for the downfall of Pune's key players.
But Pune did not go home empty-handed. The season did give them 2 young stars who possess immense potential to grow further into complete players. These two players were Pankaj Mohite and all-rounder Manjeet. They were fabulous throughout the season and that proved to be the biggest takeaway for Pune.
Here is a brief story of their PKL 7 season:
Played: 22 | Won: 7 | Lost: 12 | Tie: 3 | Total: 48 - Finished 10th
Total points scored: 744
Total points conceded: 816
Raid points: 409
Tackle points: 264
All-outs conceded: 37
Overall win percentage: 31.8%
Pune suffered a major hit when their lead raider Nitin Tomar failed to recover in time. As a result, the rest of their offensive unit looked inexperienced and that put a lot of pressure on coach Anup Kumar.
But the absence of Nitin Tomar helped this team unearth 2 very good raiders who complemented each other well throughout the season. Pankaj Mohite was mighty impressive with 113 points in his debut season. His partner Manjeet too earned 151 points which included 28 tackle points. The duo was relentless and had a major contribution in Pune’s wins this season.
Pune also scored as many as 264 tackle points, which is the most for any team this season. Captain Surjeet Singh, with 65 points to his name, was instrumental in making Pune's defense a formidable one.
What did not work?
Nitin Tomar and Girish Ernak were expected to be the pillars of this team. But an underwhelming season for both of them resulted in a series of losses that Pune couldn’t cope up with. Nitin Tomar had only 73 points to show in the 15 matches he played. He wasn’t 100% fit and looked toothless in the middle.
Right corner Girish Ernak picked up only 35 points in the season and had an average of 0.05 with a tackle strike rate of 39%. That is definitely not what you expect from your leading defender.
Pune had to make a lot of changes to their defensive unit through the season. Sagar Krishna was brought on as a replacement for a struggling Ernak, but he too failed to impress. Left corner Hadi Tajik looked decent but he lacked consistency. Had Surjeet Singh been supported well by the big players, Pune may have had better results to show.
So to sum it up, Pune could have done a lot better with the resources at hand and they never seemed to have got going in this marathon season.
Pankaj Mohite and Manjeet were brilliant and hence deserve more opportunities with the franchise. Balasaheb Jadhav, who made quite a few appearances as a substitute, also looks promising. These are some of the young players who could make it big if they are groomed efficiently for the future and hence Pune should look forward to bringing out the best from these raw talents.
Also, Pune's corner combination wasn't the best one in the league. Hadi Tajik may not be the right choice for a crucial left corner position and hence that slot could be up for grabs in the next auction.