Pro Kabaddi 2019, Team Preview: Haryana Steelers
The Steelers managed to sneak into the playoffs courtesy of Surender Nada in the left corner and their variety of options in raiding but the team was eliminated from the knockout stages owing to a loss against the Patna Pirates in their inaugural season. \
In season 6, they signed the most expensive player in Kabaddi history, Monu Goyat at ₹1.51 crores but failed to co-exist as a group due to injury issues with their top players such as Nada and Goyat himself for an extended part of the season.
Yet, one of their bright spots has been Vikash Kandola, who has been one of the finds of Haryana Steelers and has scored 235 raid points in 31 matches with Steelers. He emerged as one of the potential stars in season five and even out-scored Monu Goyat in season six.
The team management retained this swift and calculative raider by paying 15.1% of their total purse ahead of the PKL season 7 auction.
Unlike last year, Haryana Steelers were precise in selecting their squad as they spent a decent amount on their players rather than overspending. Haryana Steelers signed Arjuna awardee and former gold-medalist of Indian Kabaddi Team, Rakesh Kumar as their head coach for Season 7.
One of their best buys from the auction was Prashant Kumar Rai at ₹77 lakhs who will be returning to the team after last playing for the Steelers in season 5. Last season, with UP Yoddha, Prashant scored 147 raid points in 21 matches averaging 6.85 raid points and was one of the best raiders for the franchise.
Naveen,who plays from Bihar on the national level had a decent debut with Haryana as he scored 102 raid points in 21 matches for them. It is probable that Naveen will be the go-to man for the Steelers in the do or die situations.
Steelers also signed the lanky raider from Tamil Nadu, Selvamani K who is known to be a do-or-die expert in the game. The team management might use him as a substitution choice depending upon his fitness level in the tournament.
Other raiders namely Arun Kumar HN, Vinay, and the Iranian, Amir Mohammad Maleki are also reliable choices for the Steelers as they could get tested in the middle of the tournament.
The management will have to ensure that the fitness levels of their attacking raiders remain good right from the beginning as Prashant Kumar Rai, Vikash Khandola and Selvamani K have had injury concerns in the past. Both Prashant and Vikash are left raiders which leaves a question on the combination of their raiding attack in Season 7.
Haryana bought the services of the immensely experienced defender of Pro Kabaddi, Dharmaraj Cherelathan at ₹38.5 lakhs. Given that Dharmaraj captained the winning team (Indian Railways) at 66th Senior National Kabaddi Championship, he could be captaining Haryana Steelers in Season 7 of Pro Kabaddi with his versatality coming to the fore as well.
Cheralathan is known as the 'super-tackle specialist' and with 21 super tackle, he is second to Sandeep Narwal, who has 23 super tackles till now in the league. The veteran defender has 216 tackle points in 99 matches played in Pro Kabaddi.
Supporting him from the left corner would be Kuldeep Singh who had a stellar season last year with 49 tackle points to his name, coming into the team as a replacement for Surender Nada. Kuldeep Singh is an expert in diving ankle holds and will be a crucial part of the Steelers' campaign.
Vikas Kale and Ravi Kumar are two right cover defenders who are known for their lethal dashes and blocks. The management spent hefty 34.25 lakhs to acquire Vikas Kale, and the ex-Patna Pirates defender is certain to start for the Steelers.
Left cover defender, Parveen will be the definite choice for the left cover defense for the Steelers. Subash Narwal (NYP) and Vikram Kandola who were both a part of the Fortune Giants in season 5 are the other left cover defenders who could get under the radar if the team opts to test the bench at some part in the tournament.
Sunil (right corner) and Chand Singh (left) are the other defenders who could replace the primary defenders of the team. The versatility of Dharmaraj Cherelathan to play in both right and left corner is certain to allow both Sunil and Kuldeep Singh to play freely without injury or form concerns.
Tim Phonchoo is the only notable all-rounder in Haryana Steelers' squad but comes with no prior match experience. The team lacks a dependable all-rounder whom the team can bank upon in the group stages that could come to bite them later on in the tournament.
The starting seven for Haryana Steelers looks decent on paper with the addition of match winners from the past. However, with only 16 players in the squad, the team lacks depth in both raiding and defensive department.
Haryana Steelers will undoubtedly bank on their defensive unit as their stronger suit and will hppe that their raiders remain fully fit as they will be confident heading into the tournament uner the tutelage of former Indian Kabaddi team player, Rakesh Kumar.
His numerous years of experience in the international stage, as well as in Pro Kabaddi could add innovation to the game plan of Steelers and the squad will be expected to atleast get to the knockout stages of the competition.
Probable Starting 7 for Haryana Steelers in season 7-
Dharmaraj Cheralathan (Right Corner), Prashant Kumar Rai (Right In), Vikas Kale (Right Cover), Vikash Khandola (Center), Parveen (Left Cover), Naveen (Left In), and Kuldeep Singh (Left Corner)
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