Hyderabad: The Haryana Steelers take on Puneri Paltan in their first match of the seventh season of the Pro Kabaddi League in Hyderabad on Monday, 22 July.
Haryana finished sixth with 42 points while Puneri finished at the fourth place with 52 points in Zone A of the last season.
The Haryana Steelers will be hoping for improved performance in this season with veteran Dharmaraj Cheralathan as the leader of their side. Cheralathan, who is one of India’s most experienced kabaddi players, captained the Patna Pirates to a title victory in the fourth season of PKL. He was also part of the World Cup-winning Indian team in 2016.
Haryana will be banking on the insights and experience from India’s kabaddi legend Rakesh Kumar as a coach. The two-time World Cup-winning player said that his players are very excited to start this season.
“Our players are very excited about this season and they are working hard as well as they know that the league is starting now and we have to play well and make our team champions. So our players are quite excited,” said Kumar.
The Puneri Paltan got the better of Haryana Steelers in each of their three matches in the last edition with scores of 34-22, 45-27 and 35-33.
However, the Steelers have brought back Prashanth Kumar Rai for PKL 7. Rai and Vikash Kandola played together in season five and their partnership helped the Steelers reach the playoffs in their debut edition of PKL.
Both the raiders had an excellent sixth season. Kandola was the eighth-best raider with 172 points for the Haryana team, while Rai finished as the 14th best raider with 144 points for UP Yoddha. The Haryana Steelers will be hoping that both the raiders can continue their form in the seventh season.
The Steelers will have to be wary of the experienced Nitin Tomar in the Puneri team. Tomar has recorded the 13th most raid points (377) in 53 matches in the Pro Kabaddi League. Paltan’s young raider Manjeet, who scored 87 points for Patna Pirates in the last season, could pose a threat as well.
Rakesh Kumar expressed that the Haryana team does not feel that any team is stronger or weaker than themselves.
“All players are good in Puneri Paltan. They have experienced and young players. They have Nitin Tomar and they have Girish Maruti Ernak and Surjeet Singh in their defence. But, we have good players in our team and we don’t think anyone is stronger or weaker than us,” said Kumar.