Pro Kabaddi League: Bengal Warriors seek new beginning with overhauled strategy
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Pro Kabaddi League: Bengal Warriors seek new beginning with overhauled strategy

Bengal Warriors have retained only two players including star Korean raider Jang Kun Lee for the 2017 edition of the Pro Kabaddi League. There has been a conscious shift from being ‘defence-oriented’ like it was over the past three years

other sports Updated: Jul 25, 2017 22:24 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Pro Kabaddi League,Bengal Warriors,Jang Kun Lee
Bengal Warriors (in orange) are hoping to improve their performance at the 2017 Pro Kabaddi League.(AFP)

On a scale that would make its counterparts in cricket, football, hockey, table tennis and badminton seem almost tiny in comparison, the biggest private league in India starts at the weekend in Hyderabad. When Telugu Titans open against newbies Tamil Thalaivas in the fifth season of the Pro Kabaddi League, it will kick-off a 12-team competition that ends on October 28 in Chennai, also the day of the under-17 World Cup football final in Kolkata.

For 90 days from Friday, the competition played in the ‘caravan format’, will have 132 games. “The teams cover 74% of India’s population. That’s more than double of the IPL (Indian Premier League),” said Sandip Tarkas, CEO of Bengal Warriors here on Tuesday.

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Like the IPL, the Indian Super League has eight teams and that is two more than the leagues in badminton, hockey and table tennis.

“I can’t divulge figures because they are confidential but some of the bidding for new teams (four have been added this term) was insane,” said Tarkas.

Proof of how this indigenous sport has been revived can be had from the fact that the most expensive player this term cost Rs 93 lakh, an almost seven-fold increase from the first season in 2014.

READ | Newly framed Pro Kabaddi League returns from 28th July

And such is the dynamics of the competition that Tarkas claimed Bengal Warriors have nearly broken even despite finishing at the bottom or close to it in three of the past four editions. “We spend a total of Rs 15 crore and will recover close to that this year. Had the league not got longer (from 37 to 90 days), we would have broken even this year.”

Claiming to be inspired by the Kolkata Knight Riders who had a forgettable start to the IPL, Tarkas said the Warriors have been overhauled lock, stock and strategy. Only two players have been retained, among them Korean raider Jang Kun Lee is the team’s most expensive at Rs 80.3 lakh. A new coach, 2002 Asian Games gold medal winner and former armyman, KK Jagadeesha has been signed and recruitments made to ensure that the team consciously shifts from being ‘defence-oriented’ like it was over the past three years.

“We have replacements for every position and I can vouch that no one will have it easy against us,” said Jagadeesha who supervised a 45-day preparatory camp here.

The coach isn’t the only connection Bengal Warriors have with the armed forces. Skipper Surjit Singh, introduced as the best right-cover in the world and formerly with U Mumba, is with the Navy and the team’s only India player. “At 27, he is future India captain material,” said Jagadeesha of his captain who is from Kathura in Sonepat, Haryana and cost the franchise Rs 73 lakh.

From Aussie rules to kabaddi

In right-corner raider Amaresh Mondal, the Warriors have a player who has represented India in Australian Rules Football. The 22-year-old who is reading to be an arts graduate said he still plays both “body-contact” sport but opted for kabaddi this time because coaches at his local club and village think he can represent the country and playing the league would be a step in that direction.

First Published: Jul 25, 2017 21:50 IST