Vivo Pro-Kabaddi League season seven has entered the most crucial stage of the competition- The Playoffs. Six teams among the twelve have qualified after 12 weeks of enthralling edge of the seat action to fight for the coveted Vivo Pro Kabaddi title. The real business end of the league starts on 14th October at the EKA Arena by TransStadia in Ahmedabad. Since the league adopted double round-robin format this season, with all teams in one single pool unlike two zones in the past two campaigns the battle to be crowned as champions is now tougher than ever.
Dabang Delhi and Bengal Warriors have sealed their places directly into the semi-finals while the following four teams, U.P Yoddha, U Mumba, Haryana Steelers and Bengaluru Bulls will battle it out in two eliminators to reach the last-four stage. Eliminator 1 will see- UP Yoddha against Bengaluru Bulls. While Eliminator 2 witnesses a high octane clash between Haryana Steelers and U Mumba. Two teams from here will progress to the next stage where they will take on the top two, who have finished the league stages with the most points, in the semi-finals on 16th October. One mistake here will mean instant elimination and the end of their hopes of winning the title and the prize money of 8 Crore.
Before ‘The Toughest Week of Panga‘ begins, XploreSports takes a look back at the journey to playoffs of all 6 teams, key players to watch out in the playoffs and the prediction to finals.
#6 Bengaluru Bulls- 64 Pts, 11 wins
The reigning champions of the Pro-kabaddi league couldn’t finish the league stage on a positive note and they will face the same opponents in the eliminator 1 to progress into the semi-finals. The Bulls make their fourth playoff appearance and what might not have been the best season for them so far the young squad under the guidance of Randhir Singh Sehrawat will eye for a successful title defence.
As the playoffs neared the team looked to find its rhythm back and ‘Hi-flyer’ Pawan Sherawat has been their man this season who has looked unstoppable in his raids, tormenting the defences of the opposition team. He already has 308 raid points to his name and also broke Pradeep Narwal’s record for the most raid points in a match in PKL history. Mahender Singh and Saurabh Nandal have been their defensive stalwarts, leading the way with crunching tackles. Their star player from last season, Rohit Kumar who was retained looked sloppy this season but the young lads have lived up to the expectation of the franchise. With 376 successful raids and 52% success raid, the Bulls eye on retaining their title. Can anyone stop the champions?
#5 Haryana Steelers- 71 pts, 13 wins
The Heros from the Heartland have made into the second appearance in the playoffs since their induction in the Vivo Pro-Kabaddi. The team management under the guidance of former Patna Pirates captain Rakesh Kumar as the coach are one among the favourites to win the title. After beating some of the toughest contenders like Telugu Titans and Patna Pirates, Haryana Steelers marched into the playoffs and will face the season 2 champions, U Mumba in the Eliminator 2.
Vikas Kandola being the cornerstone of team’s success clinching 178 raid points this season has cleaned the opposition defence. Dharmaraj Cheralathan who has won the PKL title in the past has played the anchor role in defence and has led the team from the front. Coach Rakesh Kumar has been extremely successful in his maiden outing as the coach and has transformed the team into real title contenders. With 357 successful raids and 50% success raid, the steelers will look to bring the title home this season.
#4 U Mumba- 72 Pts, 12 Wins
U Mumba made a slow start to the 2019 season of the Pro-Kabaddi League. With no big names in the raiding department, the team is set to reclaim its lost glory in their fifth overall playoff appearance. They now look in full flow with Fazel Atrachali leading the squad from the front. Rohit Baliyan, Abhishek Singh and Arjun Deshwal have kept troubling the opposition defenders while Sandeep Narwal and Surinder Singh have supported their captain to perfection.
Mighty ‘Sultan’ Fazel Atrachali has been their main strength and he already has 78 tackle points to his name and has been able to drive his team into the playoffs. Abhishek Singh has been their top raider with 135 points in the league stage. Sandeep Narwal and Surendra Singh have proven to be rock solid too making it difficult for teams to stop the ‘Sultan Army‘. U Mumba have not been to the final since Season 3 thus, and with 309 successful raids and 43% raid success it will be interesting to see whether the Season 2 champions make it to the summit clash or not to lift their Title No.2.
#3 U.P Yoddha- 74 Pts, 13 Wins
The Lucknow-based franchise has been one of the most consistent teams in Pro-Kabaddi League. They have reached the playoffs in all three seasons since their introduction in Season 5. They proved their mettle with their fine show this season, rising at the right time and accelerating their performance in the second half of the league stage. They have managed to come back as champions and will face the defending champions Bengaluru Bulls in the Eliminator 1.
Nitesh Kumar, Rishank Devadiga, Sumit and Shrikant Jadhav have been the stars of their campaign this year. The team has thrived under pressure and are exemplary in Do-or-Die situations. Raider Srikanth Jhadav who scored 139 raid points in league stage has been their top performer this season. Youngster Surender Gill and the experienced Rishank Devadiga have been pivotal on their way to the playoffs. Captain Nitesh Kumar has proved his consistency in defence along with the new revelation, Sumit. They are now braced to battle in the playoff with 304 successful raids and 41% success raid in the league stage. Will the U.P Yoddhas charm the third time?
#2 Bengal Warriors- 83 Pts, 14 Wins
The Tigers have defied all odds and have emerged as one of the most dominant sides this season with a great offence along with a young and bold defensive unit. Finishing in the top two they are just two matches away from lifting the PKL trophy. The Bengal Warriors are ready to battle out in their fourth playoffs appearance. Skipper Maninder Singh has led from the front with his second straight 200+ raid point campaign. Mohammad Nabibakhsh, K. Prapanjan and Maninder Singh formed a terrific trio in the raiding unit while in the team’s defence, the corner combination of Rinku Narwal and Baldev Singh did the trick for the Kolkata-based team in the league stage.
Defenders Baldev Singh and Rinku Narwal are already past 50 tackle points and with a spread of match-winners in their fold the tigers look ready to claim their maiden PKL title. The Tigers have been one the most successful attacking teams, they made 340 successful raids with a 52% raid success. Coach BC Ramesh will only hope that his cover defenders do not commit silly errors in the playoffs when they are just two victories away from the championship.
#1 Dabang Delhi K.C- 85 Pts, 15 Wins
From Underdogs to Powerhouse, Dabang Delhi K.C have enjoyed an outstanding season, qualifying for the playoffs as table toppers. The players and the management have put up a sensational effort to get their second straight appearance in the playoffs which shows their meteoric rise as a franchise. Naveen Kumar has been their talisman, creating history with a record run of Super 10’s. Joginder Narwal has marshalled his troops very well in PKL 2019 to form one of the most balanced teams.
The ‘Dabang Express‘ have outperformed all the opposition teams to top the league table. Ravinder Pahel and Joginder Narwal have dominated the defence while Naveen Kumar and Chandran Ranjit have shouldered the responsibility of the raiding attack. 392 successful raids and a 54% raid success makes them the favourites to lift the trophy this year. They also top the points tally with 812 Total points and an average raid point of 21.91 having inflicted 36 all-outs this season. Are they the new champions in making?
Eliminator 1- UP Yoddha vs Bengaluru Bulls
UP Yoddha vs Bengaluru Bulls- U.P Yoddha knocked down Bengaluru Bulls 45-33 in the last league game of PKL 2019. They look a more balanced side on attack and defence. U.P Yoaddha’s will look to dethrone the reigning champions and march into the semi-finals to face Dabang Delhi
Eliminator 2- Haryana Steelers vs U Mumba
U Mumba had a great week 12 in the league stage as they beat Haryana Steelers 39-33 and tied their last group stage match against the table-toppers Dabang Delhi. The defence led by Fazel Atrachali looks strong and this will be a high octane match to test Rakesh Kumar’s team. U Mumba will be high in confidence with their recent run and the players look determined to lift the trophy for the 2nd time.