Pro Kabaddi League 2019, Team Preview: Bengal Warriors
Bengal Warriors managed to qualify in Season 3, 5 and 6 and failed to win any playoffs match till Season 6.
Maninder Singh has been an integral part of Bengal Warriors' raiding line-up as he has scored 44.44% of Bengal Warriors' raid points since Season 5 (396 raid points out of 891 raid points).
The team management had no plans of leaving this calculative raider out as they retained him ahead of Season 7 auctions by paying him 16.61% of the total purse.
Another retention was the right corner defender hailing from Himachal Pradesh, Baldev Singh who had a decent debut last year (28 tackle points in 18 matches).
He got picked over the likes of PO Surjeet Singh and Ran Singh as the management opted to leave their experienced defenders.
Bengal Warriors have signed BC Ramesh as their head coach for Season 7. Arjuna awardee and former gold medalist from Indian Kabaddi team, BC Ramesh, was the assistant coach of defending champions, Bengaluru Bulls in Season 6 and is also the head coach for Karnataka at the national level.
Bengal spent a massive 77.75 lakhs on an unknown commodity from Iran, Mohammad Esmaiel Nabibakhsh who hasn't stepped foot on a Pro Kabaddi mat yet.
The silver medalist at 2018 Dubai Kabaddi Masters and gold medalist at Asian Games 2018 was on high demand in the auction considering how Iranians have dominated in Kabaddi as of late.
As an all-rounder, Nabibakhsh can also play as a cover defender at times. However, he will primarily play as a raider in his debut season.
K. Prapanjan has also emerged into a much mature raider considering how he evolved under the leadership of Ajay Thakur in Season 5 and won many matches for Gujarat Fortune Giants in the last season.
Warriors bought him for a decent 55 lakhs as he will be looking to bring touch points under crucial situations.
It is certain that the trio of Maninder, Nabibakhsh, and Prapanjan will lead the offensive attack Warriors in Season 7.
Despite having a threat of over-dependence on Nabibakhsh who doesn't have PKL experience, their depth in raiding line-up will allow these three main raiders to perform freely in the group stages.
Ravindra Kumawat, Bhuvaneshwar Gaur and Rakesh Narwal are known for their ability to score touch points/bonus in pressure situations because of their long reach towards the midline.
The team management can choose between them without any concern if one out of the trio underperforms during mid-season.
Warriors has also added the experience of Sukesh Hegde in their line-up along with the Iranian youth, Mohammad Paeinmahali allowing them to have all areas covered in terms of raiding.
Warriors have also worked well with their defense by adding efficient defenders who didn't play with their former teams as a part of starting seven.
With BC Ramesh as the coach who is known to enhance the best out of defenders, this could prove to be a strength in Bengal's defensive approach.
One of their biggest steal in the auction turned out to be the versatile cover defender, Jeeva Kumar for whom the team paid 31 lakhs.
He is a super tackle specialist who brings lots of experience on the mat with his timely dashes. Jeeva could also get considered for captaining Bengal in Season 7.
Supporting Baldev Singh in the corner will be Rinku Narwal who will finally have the limelight of making into the starting seven after two seasons with Puneri Paltan.
Rinku is known to execute dives and thigh holds with perfection, thus making him a considerable pick for the left corner position.
The team also signed Vijin Thangadurai (left cover), Viraj Vishnu Langde and Sahil (right) as the team's cover defense.
Since Jeeva Kumar can play on both sides, it allows the management to shuffle between them to lay a proper defensive set-up as these three defenders are yet to prove their worth in Pro Kabaddi League.
The team has also covered their substitution corners as Adarsh T (left), Dharmendra Singh (left) and Amit (right) could get tested during mid-season if Baldev Singh or Rinku Narwal lose their form due to injury.
Bengal Warriors have added two quality all-rounders in their squad. One is Avinash A.R. and the other, Amir Santosh Dhumal is a right corner all-rounder who was a part of Maharashtra in 66th Senior Nationals.
On paper, Bengal Warriors looks one of the most balanced sides with depth in both offense and defense.
They have loaded their squad with young talents with whom the chances of injuries reduce in a three-month tournament like Pro Kabaddi.
The team management will have to pick a proper captain who can lead upfront and guide the team to stay consistent in their performance.
While Maninder Singh or Jeeva Kumar are probable choices for captaincy, all the players in the starting seven will have to perform with maturity as leaders on their own.
With a formidable raiding unit and young defensive side led by one of the reputed coaches, Bengal Warriors will be one of the most exciting teams to watch as they try to clinch their first-ever Pro Kabaddi title.
Probable Starting 7 for Bengal Warriors in Season 7:
Baldev Singh (Right Corner), K. Prapanjan (Right In), Jeeva Kumar (Right Cover), Mohammad Nabibakhsh (Center), Viraj Vishnu Langde (Left Cover), Maninder Singh (Left In) and Rinku Narwal (Left Corner)