The Pro Kabaddi League 2019 is only two weeks away from the all-important playoffs. The 12 PKL teams have now played between 16 to 18 matches each, with just 4 to 6 games left for them to play. As expected, the points table is on fire in this business end of the season. As (un)expected, the usual suspects aren’t at the top of the table, and we could well be in for some last-minute shocks before the playoffs. The battle for the top 6 is heating up!
Here are four talking points in the 10th week of PKL, in Jaipur:
TWO-WAY BATTLE AT THE TOP
This week last year, both Dabang Delhi and the Bengal Warriors were fighting for a top-two spot, too, but in their own zones. This time with the new format, the two underdog Kabaddi teams – who have incidentally never won a PKL title – are in the lead by a fair margin. Delhi lead by 4 points with a game in hand by winning 13 out of 17 matches, while the Warriors have won 11 out of 18 and have by far been the most aggressive raiders of the season. This could well go down to the wire, but both are assured of a prime playoff advantage. The group stage winner status however will come down to the next few games – one suspects a lot depends on Delhi’s match against the Patna Pirates in Jaipur this week. At best, the Haryana Steelers could make a late charge for Bengal, but that’s a long shot. Either way, maybe it’s finally time for a new PKL champion.
Only weeks ago, Jaipur Pink Panthers and two-time finalists Gujarat Fortune Giants were in pole position to make a charge and seal the 3-6 playoff spots on a canter. But the beauty of PKL – and a match or two everyday – is that the tide turns before you know it. Now it’s defending champs Bengaluru Bulls, U Mumba, Haryana Steelers, UP Yoddha in a heated scrap for the mid-table spots, while the Pink Panthers, who started so well, are now in a desperate chase in 7th spot. Given that the Jaipur home leg is on, the next few days will define their fate. The Panthers will need to win the last 3 of their matches (only 7 wins in 18, and 9 defeats) to stand a chance. The Bulls, Yoddha and Mumba are tied on 53 points. Given the current form of teams, expect the Bulls to finish sixth and scrape through, with Yoddha in 5th and Mumba completing the lineup in 4th.
The biggest disappointment of the season has been the traditional frontrunners – three-time champs Patna Pirates who are languishing in 9th spot and well out of the race, and the Fortune Giants just below them and tied on points. Both teams were expected to make the top 4, and now they find themselves in a battle to avoid the bottom-two with the two South Indian teams Telugu Titans and Tamil Thalaivas.
THE MVP PROBLEM
The Bengaluru Bulls, defending champs with perhaps the best player in the league, depend too much on star raider Pawan Kumar Sehrawat, who has to his credit managed to repeat his 2018 heroics. Sehrawat has 245 points so far, leading Pardeep Narwal once again in the table. But the reason the Bulls are still in a battle to keep the league alive is because Sehrawat, a prolific raider, has not managed game-changing Super Raids and Super 10s. Narwal and Naveen Kumar lead both those categories by a huge margin, but that doesn’t change the fact that Sehrawat is the most consistent PKL player right now. All he needs is some help.