Pro Kabaddi League 2019, Team Preview: Jaipur Pink Panthers
The VIVO Pro Kabaddi League is all set to commence from 19th July 2019. After becoming champions in the inaugural season, Jaipur Pink Panthers have been through a rollercoaster ride in the seasons afterward.
Jaipur Pink Panthers couldn't qualify in Season 2, 3, 5 and 6 and were the runners-up of Season 4.
Deepak Niwas Hooda had a spectacular season for the Pink Panthers last year, scoring 196 raid points in just 22 matches with an average of 8.91 raid points.
The team management spent 25.78% of the total purse to retain Deepak Hooda ahead of the Season 7 auction.
They also retained their best defender of Season 6, Sandeep Kumar Dhull, who earned 67 tackle points out of 22 matches with 4 High 5s.
All in all, Jaipur covered their base by retaining their best raider and defender and built a consistent squad around them in the Season 7 auction.
Ajinkya Pawar was a find for the Pink Panthers last season. This Maharashtrian left raider gained 71 raid points in 17 matches where most of the time he came in as a substitution and led the offensive attack up front.
This year, Ajinkya will have a responsible role to play and could be formidable support to Deepak Hooda.
Deepak Narwal and Nilesh Salunkhe are known to be consistent right raiders who can display versatility in raiding and can perform brilliantly in the do or die raids.
They could be come in during crucial situations allowing the management to have a variety of options to choose from against different defensive set ups.
However, looking at the current form of both Deepak Narwal and Nilesh Salunkhe, it could be a threat to Panthers if the left side of the opposition's defense outsmarts them because the team will only have an option of Sushil Gulia who is a NYP player.
Raiders namely Guman Singh, Lokesh Kaushik, and Milinda Chaturanga from Sri Lanka could get tested by the team management during mid-season if the team can keep up on the winning momentum ahead of the tournament.
Jaipur heavily invested on their former right corner defender, Amit Hooda whose spectacular defense led them to the finals of Season 4.
They spent 53 lakhs on the defender who averages 2.68 tackle points in PKL (193 tackle points in 72 matches). His partnership along with Sandeep Dhull in the left corner could be a feast to the eyes for the fans of Jaipur Pink Panthers this year.
What looks like a matter of concern is once again the cover defense which Jaipur has not been able to improve, similar to last year.
Right cover defender, Sunil Siddhgavali has 49 tackle points out of 125 attempts with an average of 1.6 tackles per match. Sunil Siddhgavali would have to execute his dash and blocks to perfection to prevent losing points in the defense.
Supporting him in the left cover would be Vishal Lather for whom the team spent 20.25 lakhs in the auction. The team will heavily rely upon Vishal as he is the only known left cover defender in the squad. They have Deepak Niwas Hooda who can play as a left cover as well, but the team management will certainly not have him in the defense this time.
The team has four capable all-rounders along with Deepak Niwas Hooda in the squad. Nitin Rawal could get brought in as a do or die raider in crucial raids as well as he could get used as a substitute for Sandeep Dhull in the left corner. Santhapanaselvam is a defensive all-rounder who could be Amit Hooda's replacement in the right corner position.
Sachin Narwal who led from the front as captain of Chandigarh in the 45th Junior National Kabaddi Championship is also a handy all-rounder who could be one of the emerging debutants this season. Dong Gyu Kim hailing from Korea has also returned to the squad after Season 5.
Deepak Niwas Hooda has a good captaincy record in PKL as he led Puneri Paltan to the playoffs back in Season 5.
After Anup Kumar announced his retirement, Deepak Hooda got handed the captaincy in Season 6 for Jaipur where he flourished in his raiding even better. It is certain that the team management will pick him as captain this season as well.
Jaipur Pink Panthers have built a team of match-winners who can turn around matches on their own. Despite the probable weakness of advance tackling from the cover defense, they have experienced players and their dependable substitutes as well.
It will be a matter of balancing the team on the same page if they can play consistently from the first match itself, they can become strong contenders from Zone A to win their second Pro Kabaddi League title.
Probable Playing 7 for Jaipur Pink Panthers in Season 7:
Amit Hooda (Right Corner), Deepak Narwal (Right In), Sunil Siddhgavali (Right Cover), Deepak Niwas Hooda (Center), Vishal Lather (Left Cover), Ajinkya Pawar (Left In) and Sandeep Dhull (Left Corner)