UP Yoddha: Needs to improve defence

Other than captain Rishank Devadiga, Prashanth Kumar Rai and defender Jeeva Kumar, UP Yoddha has no big names. But a bigger problem could be its defence.

Rishank Devadiga, one of the finest raiders in India right now.   -  Special Arrangement

UP Yoddha finished third in Zone B on its Pro Kabaddi League debut last year, behind the Bengal Warriors and the Patna Pirates, to progress to the playoffs, where it lost to the Puneri Paltan in the first eliminator.

At this year’s auction, the Lucknow-based team had mixed fortunes as Nitin Tomar, one of its better players last season, went to the Paltan for ₹115 lakh. On the second day of auction, UP Yoddha bought Prashanth Kumar Rai for ₹79 lakh — the most expensive player sold that day.

But other than captain Rishank Devadiga, Prashanth Kumar Rai and defender Jeeva Kumar, the side has no big names. UP Yoddha, which plays its home games at the Babu Banarasi Das Indoor Stadium in Lucknow, will need the trio to be in top form through the season if it wants to do better than last season.

READ | U Mumba: A complete overhaul

With 449 raid points in 80 matches, Rishank has the seventh highest in total, more than 25 per cent of those being do-or-die raid points. He also has 20 super raids to his name, bettered only by the Bengal Warriors’ Rakesh Narwal.

The defence could also be a drag on the team. Of the top 15 defenders last season, UP Yoddha has none. Its weak defence was one of the reasons why the team didn’t progress beyond the first hurdle in the playoffs in 2017. This weakness showed starkly in the eliminator against the Puneri Paltan, when Yoddha’s defenders won just eight tackle points compared to the opponent’s 17.

Player to watch - Rishank Devadiga

Devadiga is considered one of the finest raiders in India right now. Playing for U Mumba for four seasons, he was named as the best raider in the league in the third. His consistent PKL performances earned him his first national team call-up in 2015. Bought by U Mumba for ₹5 lakh in the first season, UP Yoddha won a bidding war last year and won him for ₹45.5 lakh.