As we inch closer to the start of vivo Pro Kabaddi Season 9, all 12 franchises will be raising their intensity in training as they look to finetune their squad and find the right combinations for the upcoming campaign. While all players will have their roles to play, a lot will depend on how each team’s defences fare. Lest we forget, it’s a solid defence that lays the foundation for successful teams. While raiders undoubtedly win you games, a robust and consistent defence is what generally takes a team all the way to the title.
While Manjeet Chhillar, Dharmaraj Cheralathan and Fazel Atrachali are some of the names that come to mind when thinking of quality defenders who’ve tasted vivo PKL glory, there are plenty of young and upcoming defenders who look poised to shine in the upcoming campaign. Here, we take a closer look at some of the defenders to watch out for in vivo Pro Kabaddi Season 9.
Mohammadreza Chiyaneh (Patna Pirates)
Although listed as an all-rounder, there’s no doubting the fact that Mohammadreza Chiyaneh does his best work in defence. The Iranian took vivo Pro Kabaddi by storm last season with his confident and clinical defending that saw him end Season 8 as the leading tackle points (89) scorer in the league. He produced 3 Super Tackles and 10 High 5s and contributed heavily during Patna Pirates’ run to the final last season. As a result, the three-time champions’ decision to retain him didn’t come as much of a surprise since he’s likely to be one of the most important cogs in the wheel for the Pirates as vivo PKL’s most successful franchise looks to go one step further than last season and clinch a record-extending fourth title.
Sagar (Tamil Thalaivas)
Sagar was a reliable presence in defence for Tamil Thalaivas last season. Prior to the previous season, the right corner had a satisfactory campaign when he made his vivo PKL debut in 2019 and finished with 22 tackle points in 13 matches. However, vivo Pro Kabaddi Season 8 witnessed his game go to another level as Sagar amassed 82 tackle points from 22 matches and finished as the second highest-scoring defender in the league. He was a standout performer for Tamil Thalaivas in an otherwise underwhelming campaign as a team and also featured as joint-second and second in the leaderboard for Super Tackles (8) and High 5s (8) respectively. Going into the new season, Sagar will be confident and eager to reproduce the level of performances that made him one of the most feared defenders of the last campaign.
Saurabh Nandal (Bengaluru Bulls)
Saurabh Nandal began his vivo PKL’s journey in Season 7 with Bengaluru Bulls and has been a big part of the franchise ever since. After a good debut season that saw him finish with 56 tackle points, Nandal grew in stature in Season 8. The Bengaluru Bulls left corner finished last season as the third-highest tackle points scorer in the league with 69 points in 24 games. Saurabh Nandal registered six Super Tackles, two High 5s and had a tackle success rate of 56 per cent, making him the Bulls’ best defender last season. After two good campaigns, he will be looking to kick on and continue his upward trajectory in vivo Pro Kabaddi by becoming one of the pillars of the Bengaluru Bulls’ defence in the new season.
Jaideep (Haryana Steelers)
Jaideep, who made his vivo Pro Kabaddi debut last season, dazzled one and all with his assured and authoritative defending for Haryana Steelers. He finished the campaign as the fourth highest-scoring defender and was integral to the smooth function of the Steelers' defence. The left cover was a mystery for the opposition raiders to unravel and not many attackers managed to get the better of him. He scored 66 tackle points for the Steelers and was unsurprisingly retained by the franchise as a reward for his consistent defensive displays. With 5 Super Tackles and 5 High 5s, Jaideep emerged as the best defender for Haryana Steelers last time around and he’ll be keen to replicate his Season 8 performances heading into the new campaign.
Sumit (U.P. Yoddhas)
Sumit along with Nitesh Kumar have firmly established themselves as a formidable duo in defence for U.P. Yoddhas. Sumit is more frequently seen as the aggressor among them in defence and his bravery as well as conviction while tackling has seen him finish in the top five for tackle points in the last two editions of vivo PKL. Sumit started his vivo Pro Kabaddi journey with U.P. Yoddhas in Season 7 and fit in seamlessly with the franchise, eventually finishing the campaign as the second highest-scoring defender in the league with 77 tackle points in 22 matches. Sumit also finished with the joint-highest High 5s (7) in Season 7 and registered two Super Tackles as well. Despite a drop in points scored in Season 8, Sumit’s 62 tackle points still made him the fifth highest-scoring defender in the last campaign. That said, he’ll be eager to score more tackle points and better his tally of three Super Tackles and four High 5s from last season as U.P. Yoddhas eye a maiden vivo PKL final appearance after four playoff exits.