Jaipur Pink Panthers were on top of their game in the previous Pro Kabaddi edition and they will be eager to mount a successful defence of their title in Season 10 after winning the PKL trophy for a second time last year.
The Panthers retained their core squad ahead of the milestone 10th PKL season. From the Elite Retained Players (ERP) category, they retained as many as six players including Sunil Kumar, V Ajith Kumar, Reza Mirbagheri, Bhavani Rajput, Arjun Deshwal and Sahul Kumar. From the Existing New Young Players category, the two-time champions retained Ankush, Abhishek KS, Ashish and Devank in their team. The defending champions also bought back Rahul Chaudhari and Lucky Sharma ahead of the new campaign.
Arjun Deshwal was the standout raider in Season 9 and won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award for his stunning performances. The Panthers’ main raider amassed 296 raid points in 24 matches, including seven Super Raids and 17 Super 10s.
Arjun was supported by V Ajith Kumar and Rahul Chaudhari in the attack and they will need to contribute once again in the season ahead. V Ajith Kumar scored 100 raid points while Rahul Chaudhari earned 71 raid points in Season 9. As far as expectations for the upcoming campaign goes, a lot will depend on how the Panthers’ attacking trio perform in the landmark 10th season.
Bhavani Rajput, who has scored 89 raid points in his PKL career so far, will also be eager to play his role and have a positive impact for his team. Iranian raider, Amirhossein Mohammad Maleki who made his first PKL appearance in Season 8 for Jaipur Pink Panthers will once again be a part of the team and will be hoping to make his presence felt in attack.
Like their raiding unit, the Panthers have a trustworthy set of defenders for each position. The corner duo of Ankush and Sahul Kumar was one of the most impressive defensive pairs in Season 9. Ankush who made his PKL debut in Season 9 amassed 89 tackle points and bagged the best defender of the league award. He produced five Super Tackles and nine High 5s, while his teammate Sahul Kumar scored 56 tackle points with three Super Tackles and three High 5s last year.
Meanwhile, the Panthers also boast the cover pair of Sunil Kumar and Abhishek KS in defence. Sunil was the top cover defender in the ninth PKL edition with 64 tackle points and featured among the top five defenders of the season. Jaipur Pink Panthers’ left cover Abhishek KS also showed his potential last year and scored 25 tackle points. Reza Mirbagheri and Lucky Sharma, who scored 36 and 11 tackle points respectively in Season 9 are a couple more potential game-changers in defence for the Panthers.
With Jaipur Pink Panthers retaining their key players from last year before the Season 10 Player Auction, it’s no surprise that their squad looks solid and balanced on paper. Maintaining continuity with mostly a similar set of players will help reduce the time taken for the individuals to get to know each other’s game and find the right team combination ahead of the new campaign.
Furthermore, the presence of their PKL title-winning head coach Sanjeev Baliyan bodes well for the team. Baliyan was also a part of the Indian men's team’s coaching setup for the 2023 Asian Games and is capable of influencing a match with his smart coaching, guidance and leadership qualities. He will be hoping to aid the Panthers’ players by successfully reclaiming the PKL trophy as the Jaipur-based franchise eye a record equalling third Pro Kabaddi triumph.