The Pro Kabaddi 2021 player auction saw a lot of teams making a conscious effort to bolster their defences. It wasn’t the first time that defenders stole the limelight with teams investing heavily in them. Surjeet Singh, Ravinder Pahal, Vishal Bhardwaj and Baldev Singh were some of the top defenders that went for big money during the auctions.
In kabaddi, a good raiding unit is essential for winning games but a stable defensive unit that works in cohesion is needed to garner the consistency required of title-winning teams. On that note, we look at some of the strongest defensive units on paper ahead of Pro Kabaddi 2021.
Dabang Delhi K.C.
With Joginder Narwal, Sandeep Narwal, Jeeva Kumar and Manjeet Chhillar in their ranks, Dabang Delhi K.C. have one of the most stacked defences in the league. The experienced quartet alone have 1,056 Tackle Points amongst them in Pro Kabaddi so far with Manjeet Chhillar alone boasting 339 Tackle Points - the most by any defender in the history of Pro Kabaddi. With a well-balanced raiding unit assembled in attack, Dabang Delhi K.C. will hope their defensive unit fires this year and leads them to an elusive Pro Kabaddi title win after missing out on the title by a whisker last season due to defensive frailties.
Under coach Manpreet Singh, Gujarat have traditionally been a very strong defensive unit over the last three editions of Pro Kabaddi and it is no different this time around. The addition of Ravinder Pahal, Girish Ernak and Hadi Oshtorak to their team in the auction has further strengthened their defence, which had already retained their corner duo of Parvesh Bhainswal and Sunil Kumar. Parvesh and Sunil, in particular, have been the team’s defensive pillars over the last few seasons with the pair scoring over 40 percent of Gujarat’s Tackle Points since Season 5 of Pro Kabaddi.
Jaipur Pink Panthers
Jaipur were the third-best defensive unit in Season 7 of Pro Kabaddi with an aggregate of 240 Tackle Points in 22 matches. With Sandeep Dhull, Amit Hooda and veteran Dharmaraj Cheralathan on their side this season, Jaipur look to be shaping up as a formidable defensive unit. The inclusion of Cheralathan could be a masterstroke for the Jaipur franchise as the experienced campaigner with over 100 Pro Kabaddi games will be a calming presence and guide on the mat. The veteran defender from Tamil Nadu can also mentor the team’s young defenders and play more than one role for the team.
In Abozar Mighani - who scored 160 Tackle Points last season - and Rinku Narwal, Bengal Warriors have one of the most fearsome corner defensive combos in Pro Kabaddi 2021. While Rinku scored 64 Tackle Points last season, including four High 5s, Abozar’s addition to the fold bodes well for the team as the Iranian is amongst the best right corners in the league. Bengal Warriors’ title defence will be largely pinned on the form of the Indo-Iranian corner pair on the defensive front, especially in the absence of Baldev Singh who played a key role for the Warriors in defence last campaign but has joined Puneri Paltan ahead of the new season.
No defence can ever be taken lightly when Fazel Atrachali is a part of it. He is arguably one of the best defenders in Pro Kabaddi history, topping the charts for Best Defender of the Tournament twice in Season 4 and 7. Fazel has 317 tackle points in Pro Kabaddi and is only behind Manjeet Chhillar (339) and Ravinder Pahal (326) in the all-time best defenders list despite playing fewer games than both of them. U Mumba's latest recruit Ashish Kumar, who has had a few decent displays for Bengaluru Bulls in previous seasons, will be looking to take his game to the next level and deliver on the early promise that he showed in Pro Kabaddi. In Fazel, he has the perfect defender to learn from, making it interesting to track Ashish’s progress in the new season.
Author: Kaustubh Potdar
Featured photo: PKL / Website