Bengal Warriors' story has been that of an underachiever in the last six seasons of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL). Its best finish had come in 2017, when the team settled for the third place. Last season, Warriors gave a fine performance in the league stage to finish second in Zone B. It reached the playoffs, before falling short of the final for the second successive season.
Warriors' inconsistency in the second half of the Season 6 was its bane. Losses to Haryana Steelers and Dabang Delhi disturbed the Kolkata-based side's plan to top its zone. A weak defence too hampered the progress of Warriors, which had defeated eventual champion Bengaluru Bulls thrice in the league stage.
Over-dependence on raider Maninder Singh – who was part of the champion side Jaipur Pink Panthers, in the inaugural season – was another reason behind Warriors' below-par showing.
The side is optimistic to overcome this issue in the upcoming edition with the hiring of Iranian all-rounder Mohammad Esmaeil Nabibakhsh, a current Asian Games gold medallist and a Dubai Masters silver medallist. He would be expected to take some burden off Maninder in the raiding unit.
Jeeva Kumar's addition should provide some strength to the Warriors' defence.
Raiders: K. Prapanjan, Sukesh Hegde, Bhuvneshwar Gaur, Rakesh Narwal, Mohammad Taghi Paenimahalli, Maninder Singh and Ravindra Kumawat
With proven players like Maninder, Sukesh Hegde and K. Prapanjan – a running hand-touch specialist, who scored the most do-or-die points for Tamil Thalaivas in Season 5, Warriors has depth at the both ends of the mat and inspires a lot of confidence as far as raiding is concerned.
READ: PKL 2019: MVP Pawan Kumar Sehrawat looks to lead Bengaluru Bulls to second successive title
Maninder, who was fifth among the leading raiders with 206 points in 22 outings last season, will remain the raider-in-chief for the Warriors, while others in his department will chip in from time to time. With comparatively lesser pressure on his shoulders, Maninder will look forward to take his game to the next level and serve Warriors better.
Making his PKL debut, Iranian raider Mohammad Taghi Paein Mahali will be a surprise weapon for the side.
Defenders: Jeeva Kumar, Dharmendra Singh, Viraj Landge, Vijin Thangadurai, Sahil, Amit, Rinku Narwal, Baldev Singh, Adarsh T
The experienced Jeeva Kumar, an Asian Games gold winner in 2010 and a PKL title winner with U Mumba in Season 5, will lead the defence. Known for his strong dashes to overpower opposition raiders, Jeeva was part of UP Yoddha in Season 6.
ALSO READ: Pawan Kumar Sehrawat and Siddharth Desai to team up for PKL All-Star clash
A master super-tackler, Jeeva, along with Vijin Thangadurai – who has served three teams in six seasons, will also have the responsibility of guiding debutant defenders such as Naveen Narwal, Sahil and Amit in the defence.
All-rounders: Amir Dhumal, Avinash A.R., Mohammad Esmaeil Nabibakhsh
Iranian import Nabibakhsh, who was the costliest foreign player at Rs 77.75 lakh and replaced a trusted hand like Korean Jang Kun Lee, will be the X-factor for Warriors. Nabibakhsh is equally good in his raids as well as his superb blocks and strong holds. The 27-year-old will also be keen to make his mark in his first appearance in the PKL and help Warriors in its ambition to produce some entertaining action in Season 7.