Puneri Paltan: Final hurdle beckons

With a solid defensive unit, the acquisition of an experienced raider and a change in coaching personnel for the Puneri Paltan, the side has everything it needs to reach new heights this season.

Making the playoffs has become a regular feat for the Puneri Paltan. The Maharashtrian outfit has eased its way to the playoff stage in the last three seasons, but has struggled to get past the final hurdle. However, with some key signings in the auction, the side is well-equipped to go all the way this year.

While the Puneri Paltan defenders put up a stellar show last season by finishing with 271 tackle points — the most in the league — the raiding department was found wanting. The raiders could only manage a meagre 379 points — the fewest among the teams that made the playoffs and 10th overall. But star raider Nitin Tomar’s arrival for a whopping ₹1.15 crore will address the side’s offence woes.

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The Paltan ensured its defence remains tight by retaining ace defender Girish Ernak, who was among the top six defenders last season. Ernak showed his class at the Kabaddi Masters in Dubai in June and was among the notable performers at the Asian Games as well.

On the coaching front, the team has roped in former India captain Ashan Kumar. The Arjuna awardee holds a Grade A diploma in coaching from the National Institute of Sports and comes in with a wealth of experience, which will be crucial for the side’s shot at the title.

With a solid defensive unit, the acquisition of an experienced raider and a change in coaching personnel, the Pune side has everything it needs to reach new heights this season.

Player to watch — Nitin Tomar

After being bought by UP Yoddha for a stunning ₹93 lakh last season, Nitin Tomar comes to the Pune outfit with an even heftier price tag — a mammoth ₹1.15 crore. He was among the top eight raiders last season and scored a massive 167 raid points — nearly half of what his current team managed. Being one of the most decorated players in the squad, the onus will be on Tomar to deliver from the front, literally.