Pro Kabaddi League Season 7, Team Preview: U Mumba
The VIVO Pro Kabaddi League Season seven will commence from the 20th of July 2019. In the player auctions prior to the upcoming season, Maharashtra's Siddharth Sirish Desai became the costliest player as he was procured for a sum of ₹ 1.45 Crores by the Telugu Titans.
U Mumba, a franchise from Maharashtra won the Pro Kabaddi trophy back in the second season and have also been a part of the finals in season one and season three. However, a slide in form saw U Mumba failing to reach the playoffs in season four and season five.
In the previous season, U Mumba was successful in going into the playoffs under the captaincy of Iranian Fazel Atrachali, who was sensational on the defending front while Desai, making his debut led the way in the raiding department. However, they lost to UP Yoddha in the eliminator of Season six and were taken out of the title race.
Fazel Athrachali and Sandeep Narwal - combination to look out for
For the upcoming season, the team management retained Fazel Atrachali along with young defenders Rajaguru Subramanian, Surinder Singh, and Arjun Deshwal and in the process spent 37.90% of their total purse ahead of the Season seven auction.
Surprisingly, they did not retain Siddharth Desai, who had led the offensive charge of U Mumba single-handedly in the previous season and also took home the award of the 'Best Debutant' from the season.
U Mumba spent a mammoth ₹89 Lakhs for acquiring the services of Sandeep Narwal, one of the leading all-rounders in the Pro Kabaddi League. The franchise used its 'Final Bid Match' cards to re-procure the services of Abhishek Singh (₹10 Lakhs) and Rohit Baliyan (₹35 Lakhs) in the auction.
An exciting mix of youth of experience
Seven raiders namely Rohit Baliyan, Abhishek Singh, Athul MS, Vinoth Kumar, Dong Geon Lee, Gaurav Kumar, and Arjun Deshwal will be a part of U Mumba's raiding unit.
It is probable that Rohit Baliyan will lead the raiding unit after an impressive show as a support raider last season with 94 raid points from 19 matches last season.
Abhishek Singh had a decent debut last year despite having fewer chances to prove his worth. He clinched 47 raid points in 15 matches last year and he will have a responsible role to fulfill as he could provide immense support to Rohit Baliyan.
For the do or die situations, U Mumba have in their roster Athul MS, who had shown consistency in his raiding for the Tamil Thalaivas. Dong Geon Lee's experience from the international scenario can save the team in crucial situations with his quick bonus points and toe touches.
While Arjun Deshwal, Vinoth Kumar and Gaurav Kumar are untested raiders, their exuberance on the mat will be crucial at a time when the team requires fresh legs to make an impact on the mat.
On the defence front, Sandeep Narwal and Fazel Atrachali will be banked to assume most of the responsibility on the defensive front and will both superstars bringing in acres of experience into the team, U Mumba could be expected to play a high-line of defense.
Lack of big scoring raiders, back-up for corners could be an issue
U Mumba may lack an experienced raider who scores points consistently, someone who can score Super 10s regularly but have Rohit Baliyan, Abhishek Singh who can make an impact on the mat.
Iranian Fazel Atrachali is the backbone of U Mumba's defense. In Season six, Fazel scored 83 tackle points out of 23 matches at an average of 3.61 tackle points. The 'waist hold specialist' had a phenomenal season as the captain of U Mumba and will look to continue his exploits from last season.
Surinder Singh too had a season to remember last year with more maturity in his defense. He scored 62 tackle points in 22 matches with his timely dashes. Surinder also became the first defender in Pro Kabaddi history to assist in 100 tackle attempts successfully in a single season.
The cover-corner combination of Surinder-Fazel was a feast to the eyes for Mumba fans with Fazel's ankle hold attempt combined with Surinder's truck-like dash. They will yet again look to form a potent combination and it certainly will not be easy for an opposition raider to score points against them.
One of the main threats for U Mumba involves the lack of proper substitutions in the corner defense. Fazel and Sandeep are bound to play all fixtures but if they do pick an injury, there are no suitable backups.
In addition to this, the left cover position slightly looks like a weak point in the U Mumba defense with no experienced defender in that position. South Korean Young Chang Ko, Anil, and Harendra Kumar are the candidates for the left cover position but are yet to make a massive impact.
Can Sandeep Narwal lead the way for U Mumba?
One of the best all-rounders in the PKL history, Sandeep Narwal will be part of U Mumba squad. He has represented Puneri Paltan, Telugu Titans and Patna Pirates in the past. There is no doubt that Mumba will predominantly use him as a right corner. But as a defensive all-rounder, his contribution in the offense will be crucial at times when there are three or fewer defenders in the opposition court.
Two quality all-rounders namely Ajinkya Rohidas Kapare and Mohit Baliyan are also in the U Mumba squad. Ajinkya Kapare is the only Maharashtrian in the squad and is known for his fast-paced super raids. Mohit Balyan captained the Uttar Pradesh U-21 team in Khelo India Youth Games 2019 and led the raiding from the front. They will be the prime picks for the team if the primary raiders lose their form.
U Mumba's biggest strength is in their formidable defensive core around which the team management built their squad. The winning coach of 66th Senior National Kabaddi Championship, Sanjeev Baliyan will have to determine his perfect combination for the team in the first match itself. While the defenders will try to balance their fitness and form on the same page, the raiders will have a responsibility of consistently scoring points in each given raids.
Probable Playing 7 for U Mumba in season seven:
Fazel Atrachali (Captain and Left Corner) Sandeep Narwal (Right Corner), Athul MS (Right In), Surinder Singh (Right Cover), Rohit Baliyan (Center), Young Chang Ko (Left Cover), Abhishek Singh (Left In).