Pro Wrestling League: Haryana, Bengaluru look stronger than the rest

After cricket set the ball rolling with its premier league in the country in 2008, wrestling will become the latest to join the growing bandwagon on Thursday.

JSW Sports CEO Mustafa Ghouse (second left) along with wrestlers (L-R) Sandeep Tomar, Lalita Sherawat, Narsingh Yadav, coach Kuldeep Malik, Bajrang Punia, and Navjot Kaur, at the launch of Bengaluru Yoddha team.   -  K MURALI KUMAR

After cricket set the ball rolling with its premier league in the country in 2008, wrestling will become the latest to join the growing bandwagon on Thursday.

But the Pro Wrestling League could not have timed it worse.

On Thursday, the inaugural PWL opens at the K. D. Jadhav stadium that shares the complex with the Indira Gandhi Stadium where Roger Federer is set to take on Rafael Nadal in the ongoing Indian Premier Tennis League Saturday.

As a result, over the next three days, the PWL will have to fight for attention even as most people entering the huge complex will head to watch some of the biggest names in tennis.

On the opening day, hosts Delhi Veer take on Punjab Royals in the best of nine-bout contest. On Friday, Mumbai Garuda face UP Warriors and Saturday witnesses a contest involving the Haryana Hammers and Bengaluru Yodhas.

Not all franchisees have managed to get desirable venues. UP will host their matches in Noida’s Gautam Buddh University while, in contrast, Haryana have chosen an upmarket Hotel Hyatt Regency in Gurgaon. Bengaluru have settled for Koramangala Indoor Stadium while Mumbai will host their matches in the National Capital.

In short, barring Ludhiana and Bengaluru, all the PWL action will be in the National Capital Region. The semi-finals, on December 25 and 26, and the final on December 27 will be held here.

However, the lack of clarity shrouds the event. It is learnt that Swedish Wrestling Federation has declined permission to its players for the league citing its preparatory plans ahead of the Olympic year. The race for the quota places for next year’s Games will start in March and Sweden is not willing to risk injuries to its wrestlers at this stage.

In such a scenario, Delhi’s icon player Sofia Mattson and Bengaluru’s Malin Johanna Mattson will miss the action. Even Sushil Kumar, the icon player for UP, has indicated he would not be too keen to take part in the action though he wished to be around as a “mentor” for the team.

The reluctance to name the replacements for either the Swedes or even Sushil Kumar reflects on the lack of preparedness of the franchisees and the promoters. Moreover, the possibility of more withdrawals/non arrival of players cannot be ruled out. Over all, the PWL appears to be a lacking in organisation and logistics.

On the brighter side, Yogeshwar Dutt of the Haryana Hammers declared he would be fighting all the bouts. “It is my job to fight. Even if I am pitted against my brother, I will fight.”

Yogeshwar, who has been nursing a troubled knee for long, is likely to test his fitness during this league. “I feel, injuries can occur even during practice. So I am not going to shy away from bouts on the pretext of preparing to book quota places for Olympics.”

A cursory glance at the teams makes Haryana and Bengaluru as the teams to look out for. These teams clash on Saturday with the match featuring a much-awaited bout between Yogeshwar and his “brother-like” protégé Bajrang Punia in the 65-kg category.