The eighth season of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) gets underway on December 22 when Bengaluru Bulls takes on former champion U Mumba in Bengaluru.
The entire PKL season will be held inside a bio-bubble at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Bengaluru and will be the first indoor sporting league to return after the coronavirus pandemic.
Ahead of what promises to be an enthralling season, here are five top foreign players to look out for -
Mohammad Esmaeil Nabibakhsh - Bengal Warriors
All-rounder Mohammad Esmaeil Nabibakhsh has been a crucial member in Bengal Warriors' maiden title win in the league in 2019 and will be a key part of its title defense this season.
He was the most expensive foreign buy of the season at ₹77.75 lakh and the price tag hung over his head for a bit, but the Iranian came good with 122 points in 23 games, with 92 of those points coming in raid points. He has played an able second fiddle to Maninder Singh, whose fitness issues have been a concern for the team. Alongside Abozar Mighani, Warriors can bank on a formidable defensive duo too come season 8.
Fazel Atrachali - U Mumba
Fazel Atrachali became the first player to reach the one crore mark in season six when U Mumba bought the Iranian defender. As the captain of U Mumba, Fazel leads by example, and was the only defender to score above 80 tackle points last season (82 points). Guarding the left corner, the muscular Iranian was the first foreign defender to score 300 tackle points in the league. Fazel is one of the only two players with multiple best defender awards.
Abozar Mighani - Bengal Warriors
The Iranian makes the move from Telugu Titans to Bengal Warriors this year and the switch comes with the responsibility of tightening the Warriors' defense as they look to bid for a second consecutive PKL title.
In 63 matches in the PKL so far, Abozar has 162 points to his name. The aggressive right-corner defender had an unusually quiet season with the Telugu Titans in 2019 but will hope to partner with Nabibaksh and give the Warriors a shot in the arm.
Mohammadreza Shadloui Chianeh - Patna Pirates
The Iranian is unheralded in the Pro Kabaddi League and his price tag (Rs. 30 Lakh) made heads turn. Roped in by Patna Pirates, it will be interesting to see what about the all-rounder warrants the money spent.
Hadi Oshtorak - Gujarat Giants
With the Gujarat franchise spending Rs 20 Lakh, Oshtorak is among the richer foreign players in the league this season. While his numbers pale when compared to someone like Nabibaksh, Oshtorak has at several points of his time in the PKL proven to be a useful all-rounder who can adapt to the situations of the game. To see Gujarat Giants, which will bid for its first title this season, back him with a price tag of the sort only piques interest on what he could potentially do for this side.
BIG NAME MISSING:Jang Kun Lee - Patna Pirates
Jang Kun Lee spent six seasons with Bengal Warriors before moving to Patna Pirates where he featured alongside Pardeep Narwal. He only managed 60 raid points though, having an ordinary season on the mat.
He scored 433 points for the Warriors over six seasons and was a vital cog in their raiding department. Despite a poor season with Patna, the management reinforced their faith in the South Korean, exercising their final bid match option to retain him for ₹20.5 lakh. However, Lee will not feature in PKL 8 owing to personal reasons, with the Pirates roping in Kenyan Daniel Odhiambo in his place.
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