PKL: Newcomers share limelight; teams risk burnout

55 games down, PKL 8 has been one of the closest tournaments yet. Old stars and promising newcomers have taken turns to prove their mettle but do teams have a plan to tackle bubble fatigue?

Tamed: Teams seem to have figured out the tricks of seasoned warhorses like Pardeep Narwal who has found little to no success with his trademark dubki so far this season.   -  Special Arrangement

After a COVID-induced two-year interruption, the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) returned for a long-awaited eighth season in December 2021. With old stars and promising newcomers taking turns to prove their mettle, PKL 8 has been evenly fought so far.

Here are Sportstar's top takeaways from the league after the completion of 55 games:

Step aside, legends

To say that PKL veterans like Pardeep Narwal, Ajay Thakur, Rahul Chaudhari, Siddharth Desai and Nitin Tomar have had a quiet season so far does not quite sum things up. Thakur (five points from five games) and Chaudhari (nine points from four games), former teammates at Tamil Thalaivas and now representing Dabang Delhi and Puneri Paltan respectively have had little to no impact on the proceedings and have eventually dropped out of the starting seven.

Narwal (59 points from nine games), the dubki king, crossed the impressive 1200-point threshold recently but his opponents seem to have him figured out, with the UP Yoddha star spending a considerable chunk of time on the bench. Tomar looked promising for the Paltan with seven points in their opening game against Delhi but sustained an injury immediately after, hampering hopes of consistency. Desai, too, had little success with the Telugu Titans and has been sitting out after sustaining a wrist injury.

Instead, the likes of Arjun Deshwal (109 points in nine games) for Jaipur Pink Panthers, Aslam Inamdar (67 points in nine games) for Puneri Paltan, Meetu Mahender (51 points from nine games) for Haryana Steelers, Rajnish (39 points from four games) for Titans and V. Ajith Kumar (59 points from 7 games) for U Mumba have made heads turn with a few jaw-dropping performances that have sometimes single-handedly helped their teams win games.

The need to stay in the present

Two teams who particularly frustrated fans and pundits alike with their selection calls were Telugu Titans and Dabang Delhi. Their strategy to go with experience has greatly misfired as Delhi’s Thakur, Manjeet Chhillar (18 points from nine games) and Titans’ Rohit Kumar (six points from five games) have been lacklustre.

From the aforementioned trio, Chhillar has shown a gradual improvement in fortunes, while Thakur and Kumar are yet to set the mat on fire this season. If these teams want to finish the season with the trophy, a few bold decisions are in order, however hard those may be.

Indispensable: Dabang Delhi’s Naveen Kumar has been the backbone of the team's scoring, with the side looking hapless in his absence.   -  Special Arrangement

 

Workload management

This season is shorter in terms of the window it occupies this year but that means more matches in a day and triple headers every Saturday. There is hardly any time for rest and recovery as niggles, injuries, fatigue are all creeping into teams. Delhi's Naveen Kumar (133 points in eight games) has, as expected, been a standout raider, even picking up a few nifty records along the way but his workload is incredible. His form has faltered a little in the past few games and his team suffered a massive 39-point defeat against Bengaluru Bulls in the game he sat out. U Mumba's Ajith Kumar is another example, with his team losing meekly to Patna Pirates by 20 points in his absence.

Workload management in a bubble where all you can think, watch and do is kabaddi is crucial for the fortunes of these teams going forward.