UP Yoddha are one of the newest franchises in the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), having joined the competition only in the fifth edition. In their campaigns since then, they have managed to clinch a playoff spot, establishing themselves as a consistent side.
One of the major reasons for UP Yoddha's continued success has been the indomitable right corner defender Nitesh Kumar. Kumar, a find from the Future Kabaddi Heroes (FKH) program, has been the top-performing defender over the past three seasons.
He became the first defender in PKL history to record a total of 100 tackle points in a single season (PKL Season 6). Along with Sumit Sangwan at left corner position, the duo went on a tear against the opposition raiders and scored more than 150 tackle points between them.
To bolster their attack, UP Yoddha made a huge splash at the Pro Kabaddi 2021 Auction, adding the 'Dubki King' Pardeep Narwal to their ranks. The North India-based franchise paid a record-breaking ₹1.65 crore to acquire the services of the superstar raider who holds most of the raiding records in Pro Kabaddi League history.
UP Yoddha also got the efficient and powerful raider Shrikant Jadhav back in the squad to form a strong raiding partnership with Pardeep Narwal. With the Pro Kabaddi 2021 season upon us, we take a look at their potential starting seven.
Left Corner - Sumit Sangwan
Sumit Sangwan had an outstanding debut season for the UP Yoddha in Pro Kabaddi League Season 7. He finished with a total of 77 tackle points in 22 matches over the course of the season.
Along with Nitesh Kumar, Sangwan formed the best corner defensive partnership in the entire PKL Season 7. He was retained as the Existing New Young Player by the UP Yoddha management for PKL Season 8, which showed their faith in the young defender.
Left In - Shrikant Jadhav
Former U Mumba and Indian Railways raider Shrikant Jadhav was bought by the UP Yoddha franchise for a huge sum of ₹72 lakh. He was the top-scoring raider for the Yoddhas in PKL Season 7 with 148 raid points in 22 matches.
Jadhav's physical presence on the mat and his agility will complement the tenacity of Pardeep Narwal well. The two will form one of the strongest raiding duos in the entire Pro Kabaddi League.
Left Cover - Gaurav Kumar
Gaurav Kumar is a youngster who was signed up by the UP Yoddha at the Pro Kabaddi 2021 auction. He is tipped to play the left cover position alongside Ashu Singh to round up the UP Yoddha defense.
Centre - Pardeep Narwal
The 'Dubki King' Pardeep Narwal will play for another PKL side after a long tenure with the Patna Pirates. He won three titles with the Pirates in a row and will now aim to lead the Yoddhas to their first.
Narwal is the most decorated raider in the history of the Pro Kabaddi League, with three titles, 1160 raid points, 53 Super Raids and 59 Super 10s. With Shrikant Jadhav by his side, we can expect fireworks from the duo on the mat this season.
Right Cover - Ashu Singh
Young Ashu Singh will be one to watch out for in the UP Yoddha lineup. He played in an important right cover position and was a great presence in the strong UP Yoddha defense the previous season.
Ashu finished with a tally of 41 tackle points in 23 matches with his well-timed rushing tackles and dashes to complement the two strong corners - Nitesh Kumar and Sumit Sangwan. He will be a key presence in the cover defense for the UP Yoddha side in the upcoming season of the Pro Kabaddi League.
Right In - Surender Gill
Another young gun in the UP Yoddha lineup, Surender Gill, has been one of the most promising players in their squad. Gill finished Season 7 with a respectable 80 points, 71 raid points and nine tackle points.
He had a stellar performance against the Jaipur Pink Panthers, almost singlehandedly leading them to victory. We can expect a strong breakout season from the youngster Surender this time around.
Right Corner - Nitesh Kumar
UP Yoddha skipper Nitesh Kumar will be leading the side for the second season running as they aim for their first PKL title.
One of the most lethal corner defenders in recent times, Nitesh Kumar has garnered a total of 175 tackle points in the last two Pro Kabaddi seasons. He has consistently been a strong pillar in the UP Yoddha defense. Under his leadership, UP Yoddha is expected to make a run into the Pro Kabaddi 2021 playoffs.