The 68th Senior Nationals Kabaddi Championships will mark the first major kabaddi tournament since the COVID-19 pandemic with many of the top players set to get back on the mat.

The senior kabaddi nationals will be held from April 13 and will end on April 16 at the Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar International Sports Stadium in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh.

Last year, the nationals were held in Jaipur in March with Indian Railways emerging as champions. The pandemic struck shortly after the tournament.

Several Pro Kabaddi league (PKL) stars will participate in the championship.

Last year, Pawan Sehrawat was the star of the Indian Railways team, which defeated Services 29-27 in the final. Pawan will now lead the defending champions, taking over from veteran Dharmaraj Cheralathan.

Ace defender Surjeet Singh will lead the Services team, which will see Naveen Kumar in action as well.

Siddharth Desai and Rishank Devadiga will turn up for Maharashtra while Deepak Hooda will captain Rajasthan and Maninder Singh will be at the helm of Punjab. Rahul Chaudhari has been handed the reins of the home team, Uttar Pradesh.

Prolific raider Pardeep Narwal will play in the Senior Nationals Kabaddi Championships 2021. He has been named captain of Haryana.

Ajay Thakur, who has been provisionally suspended by the national anti-doping agency (NADA), has been named captain of the Himachal Pradesh team. It’s unclear if he will take the mat. Defender Vishal Bhardwaj is vice-captain.

Players competing in the Senior National Kabaddi Championship 2021 will be scouted for the Indian national kabaddi team.

Renowned coach Krishan Kumar Hooda, a Dronacharya Award winner, and former Indian raider and Arjuna awardee Ashok Shinde will be in the committee to select India probables.

Senior Nationals Kabaddi Championships 2021: Teams, groups and format

The group stages will be played in the round-robin format with a team from each pool to play other teams in their respective pools once. The top two teams from each pool proceed to the knockouts.

The knockouts start with the pre-quarterfinals, the winner of Pool A will face the runner-up of Pool H, the winner of Pool B will meet the runner-up of Pool G and so on.

Pool A: Indian Railways, Kerala, Jharkhand

Pool B: Services, Andhra, Delhi

Pool C: Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Vidharbha, Punjab

Pool D: Uttar Pradesh, Chandigarh, Telangana, Assam

Pool E: Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Tripura

Pool F: Bihar, Pondicherry, Jammu & Kashmir, Chhattisgarh

Pool G: Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, West Bengal

Pool H: Maharashtra, Uttaranchal, Gujarat, Manipur

Junior Nationals Kabaddi Championships 2021 schedule and start times

All times are Indian Standard Time (IST)

Tuesday, April 13

Group stage matches - 2:00 PM IST

Wednesday, April 14

Group stage matches - 2:00 PM IST

Thursday, April 15

Group stage matches - 2:00 PM IST

Pre-quarterfinals - 6:30 PM IST

Quarter-finals - 9:30 PM IST

Friday, April 16

Semi-finals - 12:00 PM IST

Final - 7:00 PM IST

Featured photo: Pro Kabaddi