PKL 2019: Focus on defence as U Mumba sets eyes on second title

Banking on a solid defence, season two champion U Mumba will gun for a second Pro Kabaddi League (PKL 2019) title this year.

U Mumba players train at the gym on Sunday.

U Mumba players train at the gym on Sunday.   -  Twitter/@U_Mumba

The focus would be on a settled defensive line-up, as U Mumba seeks to build on its 2018 showing in the seventh edition of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL 2019).

Three out of the four players retained by the franchise - Fazel Atrachali, Surender Singh and Rajaguru Subramanian - were defenders. Raider Arjun Deshwal is the fourth player retained from last season. The side also bought back raiders Abhishek Singh and Rohit Baliyan by using the Final Bid Match (FBM) option. The side will have a new coach in Sanjeev Baliyan.

Besides having a strong defender in the ever-dependable Fazel, U Mumba's arsenal has been bolstered by Surender's arrival. Tempered by experience and guidance from the Iranian star, the talented Indian can contribute enough tackle points to turn matches around.

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Sandeep Narwal, a prized catch for Rs 89 lakh at the auctions, is a big name all-rounder with match-winning all-round abilities. Fazel and Sandeep manning the corners would be a confidence-booster even as Surender and Rajaguru would look to add pressure on the opposition raiders.

The challenge for the team management will however be to ensure a ready line-up of replacements in case of injuries to key players over the course of the tournament, lest a situation like that of Siddharth Desai last season were to arise.

Raiders: Rohit Baliyan, Dong Geon Lee, Arjun Deshwal, Abhishek Singh, Athul MS, Gaurav Kumar, Navneet, and Vinoth Kumar

From complementing Siddharth Desai last season to having to evolve into a frontline raider this time, Baliyan’s role would undergo a major change. South Korean Dong Geon Lee is another handy option. Arjun Deshwal holds promise, as well.

Defenders: Fazel Atrachali, Rajaguru Subramanian, Surender Singh, Harsh Vardhan, Anil, Harendra Kumar, and Young Chang Ko

The defensive talent is enviable. The side has an asset at the left-corner in Fazel, who has the ability to bring down the strongest of raiders with a timely tackle and a lethal grip. Last season, he finished as the third-best defender with 83 points from 23 matches. His experience of featuring for different teams over the last six years enables him to run the show with unchallenged authority.

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Teammates from last season, Rajaguru and Surender, can only improve in his presence, as will the new faces in the defence.

All-rounders: Sandeep Narwal, Mohit Baliyan, and Ajinkya Rohidas Kapre
Narwal, who started out as a defender, developed raiding quality over the years to capitalise on his brute strength on either side of the mat. Ajinkya Rohidas Kapre is a talent worth watching too.

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