PKL 2019: Revamped Haryana Steelers eyes redemption

After a poor show last year, Haryana Steelers – led by Kabaddi World Cup champion Rakesh Kumar – will look for redemption in the seventh season of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL).

Rakesh Kumar (C) will be eager to begin his Pro Kabaddi League coaching career on a positive note with Haryana Steelers.   -  Twitter @HaryanaSteelers

Haryana Steelers made its Pro Kabbadi League (PKL) debut in season 5 and finished third in Zone A to qualify for the Eliminators, where it lost to eventual champion Patna Pirates. Last season, though, was a dismal one for Haryana, as it finished at the bottom of Zone A with the worst score difference (-91) among all 12 teams.

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Monu Goyat, who was signed for a PKL-record fee of ₹1.51 crore, failed to live up to expectations — when not injured — but the team found a consistent performer in Vikash Kandola. Aiming to build on the few positives from last season, the team let go of Monu ahead of season 7 and has assembled its team around Vikash.

RAIDERS: Vikash Kandola, Prashanth Kumar Rai, Naveen, K. Selvamani, Vinay, H. N. Arun Kumar, Amir Hossein Mohammadmaleki

After emerging as a breakout star in season 5, Vikash earned his spot in the limelight last year. Perhaps buoyed by the arrival of a star like Monu, the 22-year-old was a rare bright spark in what was a forgettable campaign for the team. Having amassed a remarkable 172 points, the most for the team, he will be the side's go-to man this campaign.

With Vikash's position in the team fixed, Haryana also roped in Prashanth Kumar Rai to fill the gap left by Monu's departure. The raider, who had played for Haryana in season 5, returns home after proving himself with UP Yoddha last season. A look at the number of raid points over the last two seasons will give us a simple understanding of his improvement. He collected 144 raid points last season, the highest for UP Yoddha, which is almost twice as many points he picked up in season 5 (78).

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With both Vikash and Prashanth being left raiders, it will be interesting to see what combinations the team will go for. K. Selvamani, bought from Jaipur Pink Panthers, is widely considered a do-or-die specialist and can be an important substitute through the season.

DEFENDERS: Dharmaraj Cheralathan, Ravi Kumar, Vikram Kandola, Vikas Kale, Subhash Narwal, Kuldeep Singh, Parveen, Sunil

Haryana Steelers will be Dharmaraj's sixth team in seven seasons and in him, the side has one of the best corner defenders to have graced the game. His versatility means he can seamlessly slot into either corner position. With 256 points over the seasons, the 44-year-old is the second highest defender on the all-time points scored table. With 21 super tackles in 99 games, he is a Super Tackle specialist — only behind Sandeep Narwal (93) in the table.

The defence though does not look very promising beyond him. Last season, the team looked to Kuldeep when Surender Nada started the season with an injury but he looked average at best following an impressive start. The left corner will most likely be partnered with Vikas, who moved from Patna Pirates for ₹34.25 lakh.

Right cover Ravi, left cover Parveen and youngsters Kuldeep and Sunil will form the rest of the defensive unit.

ALL-ROUNDERS: Tin Phonchoo

Thai all-rounder Tim has made only one appearance in PKL, in Season 4, with Dabang Delhi. After not being around for season 5, this will be his second season with Haryana, and he will be eager to make his debut for the side this season.