Ever since its inception in 2014, the PKL (Pro Kabaddi League) has popularised the game of Kabaddi by leaps and bounds and has provided a platform for Kabaddi players to make a name for themselves in the sport. The PKL is India's second-most-watched franchise-based sporting event after the IPL (Indian Premier League).
In seven seasons of the PKL, five different teams have won the competition - Jaipur Pink Panthers, U Mumba, Patna Pirates, Bengaluru Bulls and Bengal Warriors. Bengal Warriors are the most recent winners of the PKL while Patna Pirates are the most successful side in the competition with three titles to their name.
Many talented players have showcased their skills in the PKL during the seven seasons of the competition. However, injuries and other issues have meant that some of them are yet to realise their optimum potential in the PKL.
With the eighth season of the PKL set to commence soon, let's take a look at three such players who could most likely return to the mat in PKL Season 8.
Three players likely to make a comeback in PKL Season 8
#3 Mahendra Ganesh Rajput
The lanky raider from Maharashtra, Mahendra Ganesh Rajput, is known for his ability as a game-changer in the PKL, one who can turn around matches on his own. He has produced impactful performances from the bench in the PKL, coming on as a super-substitute and changing the course of a game in his team's favour.
Having represented Bengal Warriors in the first four seasons of the PKL, Rajput moved to Gujarat Fortune Giants where he picked his career-best tally of 62 total points in 17 games. With an extensive reach to the midline, Rajput's ability to bulldoze himself through defenders came handy for Gujarat in the two PKL seasons he played for the team.
In Season 6 of the PKL, Rajput produced a magical 7-pointer raid against U Mumba in the 36th minute to clich a sensational win for Gujarat. However, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the season and eventually lost his spot in the next season of the PKL.
Now that Mahendra Ganesh Rajput, who has immense experience under his belt, has recovered from his injury, many PKL teams would be keen to add the gigantic raider to their rosters. He is a useful raider who can provide many match-winning moments on his own, and thus will be among those players who could return to the PKL in Season 8.
#2 Surender Nada
The ankle-hold specialist Surender Nada is considered one of the finest left corner defenders in the history of the PKL. With more than 200 tackle points, Nada holds the record of scoring the most consecutive High 5s (5) in the history of the competition, a tally unsurpassed by any other defender.
Surender Nada had the joint-highest tackle points (51) in the inaugural season of the PKL and played a vital role in U Mumba's PKL win in Season 2. He has also played for PKL franchises Bengaluru Bulls and Haryana Steelers in the past.
Having won a total of five international gold medals, including the Kabaddi World Cup in 2016, Nada has proved his worth for any team that he has played for.
In the first match of PKL Season 6, Surender Nada injured his shoulder while playing for Haryana Steelers and missed out on the rest of the season. He was subsequently picked by Patna Pirates in PKL Season 7 but didn't play a single game for the 3-time champions due to his injury.
However, Nada made an epic comeback in the gold medal-winning Indian kabaddi team at the 2019 South Asian Games and also played for Haryana in the 67th Senior Nationals.
Considering that he has regained his form after injury, he will most probably return to action in the upcoming eighth season of the PKL. Many teams like Tamil Thalaivas or Gujarat Fortune Giants could dish out an enormous sum of money to sign one of the best left corners in the business.
#1 Sandeep Kandola
Nicknamed as the baby-faced assassin, Sandeep Kandola made his mark in the second season of the PKL for Telugu Titans. Known for his breathtaking ankle holds and back-holds, Kandola scored 59 tackle points in 16 PKL matches, with six High 5s to his name. His accomplishment in just a single PKL season has made him a star in a short period.
However, Kandola was handed a 4-year ban after he was caught using performance enhancers. After his ban got lifted, he returned to play for the Indian Air Force team in the Inter-Services Kabaddi Championship.
Kandola was then picked for the 12-member Services squad in the 67th Senior National Kabaddi Championship where he claimed the silver medal for his side. Kandola notched up 19 tackle points with three High 5s in four knockout matches and showcased his excellent skills even after a long gap.
With his exceptional recent form, Kandola can likely expect many PKL teams to engage in bidding wars to sign him for the next edition of the PKL. Sandeep Kandola's presence in any PKL team could boost their fan base as he is a talented defender who is yet to realise his optimum potential in the sport.