Since the inception of PKL (Pro Kabaddi League) in 2014, the competition has grown manifold in popularity as is evident in the rise in its TV viewership as well as stadium audience numbers.
During the course of its five years and seven seasons, the PKL has managed to throw up a bevvy of promising players who have managed to showcase their talents to woo the fans. Each season, the PKL has unearthed talents who have done brilliantly to make their mark in the competition. In the process these players have become mainstays for their franchises and staked their claims for a place in the national team as well.
However, there have been some players in the PKL who have not delivered on their perceived potential as well as they could have. Such inconsistent performances could be attributed to a lack of consistency that has plagued them over the years.
On that note, we take a look at five such players in the PKL who have struggled to fulfill their potential.
Five PKL players who have struggled for consistency and live up to their potential:
#5 Nilesh Salunke - Raider
Nilesh Salunke is the first man on our list who has struggled for consistent performances in the PKL. He is one of those raiders who has always provided glimpses of his potential and has displayed the spark needed to be the 'Star' of any PKL team but has fallen short of expectations.
Salunke, who hails from the town of Kalyan in Maharashtra's Thane district, grew up playing among some of the best local clubs in the district. He made his debut in the PKL for Puneri Paltan but did not receive many chances in a stacked lineup. His first run of note in the PKL came after he was signed by the Telugu Titans for PKL Season 4.
Nilesh Salunke played three seasons in the PKL for the Telugu Titans, appearing in a total of 55 matches, where he garnered a tally of 240 raid points. He played as the second raider in support of star man Rahul Chaudhari and has been backed by his PKL franchise despite being in the latter's shadow.
Salunke was then signed by Jaipur Pink Panthers for PKL Season 7 where he had a mediocre outing, scoring 68 raid points in 19 matches.
Over the years, Salunke's average raid points per match in the PKL has dropped except in Season 5 when it peaked at 4.66. In addition, he has never managed to score 100 raid points in a PKL season that further reflects his lack of consistent performances during his PKL career.
#4 Shabeer Bapu - Raider
Shabeer Bapu has been considered by many PKL fans as one of the most intelligent and crafty raiders to have graced the mat. He won the PKL Championship with U Mumba back in PKL Season 2. However, subsequent injuries and lack of consistency on the mat has held him back in realising his optimum potential in the the PKL.
Shabeer Bapu announced himself on the PKL stage with two stellar seasons for U Mumba as he played his part to perfection alongside skipper Anup Kumar. His crucial Super raid in the PKL Season 2 final against Bengaluru Bulls was a moment that turned the match in U Mumba's favour, eventually leading his team to the PKL title.
Unfortunately, since then, frequent injuries have seen Shabeer Bapu not play more than 14 matches in a PKL season leading to low scores and less playing time as well. His average raid points per PKL match has fallen from a healthy 4.6 to less than two in the last two PKL seasons.
#3 Rohit Rana - Defender
Rohit Rana is a cover defender who rose to fame after his exploits for PKL Season 1 winners Jaipur Pink Panthers. He finished that season as the fourth best defender in the PKL, with 38 tackle points from 15 matches, discharging his defensive responsibilities with aplomb as Panthers romped their way to the PKL title.
Rana continued to play for the Pink Panthers for three more PKL seasons, reaching the final in PKL Season 4 where he lost out to Patna Pirates. However, he was not able to replicate his form from PKL Season 1 and could not score 20 points in a PKL season during the rest of his stint with the Panthers.
His PKL career received a new lease of life for the next couple of seasons with Telugu Titans and U Mumba, where he reached the PKL playoffs with the latter.
However, Rana's overall run in the PKL is a case of what might have been. Considering his threat coming in from the cover position, he could have had a far better PKL career.
#2 Meraj Sheykh - All Rounder
The first foreign name on this list and a big one at that is Meraj Sheykh - the all-rounder who has captained Iran for many years. In PKL Season 2, Sheykh became the first overseas player to captain a PKL team when he was made the skipper of the Telugu Titans.
After making his PKL debut for the Titans in Season 2, Sheykh played two seasons where the Titans often deployed him as a third raider. He was a handy presence in defence but had a fairly low run of points scored with 86 in 29 matches since reaching the playoffs in Season 2.
Sheykh then moved north to Dabang Delhi KC in PKL Season 4. He had a poor start to the season, garnering just 75 points in 14 matches. But he did well in the two subsequent PKL seasons where he established himself as more of a raider than an all-rounder.
He was sparingly used in PKL Season 7 as Dabang Delhi reached the final of the competition. Sheykh's lack of consistency on the defensive end is a major reason why he has not been able to establish himself as a top all-rounder in the PKL.
#1 Mohit Chhillar - Defender
One of the most well-rated defenders in the PKL, Mohit Chhillar is a name some may find odd to see in this list. Chhillar won the PKL with U Mumba in Season 2. He has been a long-time presence in the PKL, having played the competition since its inaugural edition.
Chillar was renowned for his solid corner partnership with Surender Nada that translated to success for the PKL teams - U Mumba, Bengaluru Bulls and Haryana Steelers - where the duo played together till Season 5 of the competition.
However, when a deep dive is done on Mohit Chhillar's stats, we can notice that his average tackle points per match has been highly inconsistent during the course of his PKL career.
Chillar's best seasons in the PKL were in Season 3 and 4 for U Mumba and Bengaluru Bulls respectively. He reached the 50-point mark in tackles for the first time in PKL Season 4.
With the talent and prowess that Chhillar possessed, he could have been way more successful in the PKL, considering he had the support of Surender Nada for five seasons.Published 30 Jun 2020, 17:53 IST