All set for Le Panga jamboree

All set for Le Panga jamboree

The nation will go berserk when the kabaddi season gets underway with the commencement of the sixth season of the hugely popular Pro Kabaddi League PKL in Chennai, three days from now

Hyderabad: The nation will go berserk when the kabaddi season gets underway with the commencement of the sixth season of the hugely popular Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) in Chennai, three days from now.

In typical glamour-struck filmy style, the blockbuster opener is slated for Friday with Telugu Titans locking horns with their Zone ‘B’ opponents and neighbours Tamil Thalaivas in the latter’s backyard.

U Mumba will take on Jaipur Pink Panthers in the second match, while Patna Pirates open their title defence against the host, later.

Unlike the other editions, this time around, the 12-team League has been delayed by a couple of months because of the timing of various other international events capable of attracting sizeable audience and viewership interest.

The reasons for the same have been explained by the man of the moment, League Commissioner, Anupam Goswami.
In his own words, ‘We were hard pressed but had to give in and adjust Season VI window to October onwards because of the Asian Games that was held in Indonesia. Moreover, the continental event featured the best of global kabaddi stars, who were donning national colours.’

That is a fair enough justification considering that devoid of the presence of charismatic players and the sport’s superstars, PKL would have ended up as a damp squid. It would have proved detrimental to the very concept of Brand PKL.

Words of comfort for the disillusioned fans come from Goswami, when he asserts, “We will return to a July start for the next edition.”

Teams have been divided into two zones of six teams each, where each will be playing a set of 15 intra-zone and seven inter-zone matches. The knockout stage will commence thereafter and this will add verve to the event given that the play-offs stage will feature three explosive adrenaline-flowing eliminators, two qualifiers and culminate with the grand finale at Mumbai on January 5.

One of the biggest achievements of PKL has been that it has brought money into a sport that is, by and large, seen as a poor man’s sport, particularly in the Indian context, compared to those like cricket, tennis and badminton.

It would have sounded preposterous and unthinkable even in one’s wildest dreams that kabaddi payers would earn in lakhs and millions. But then one should give credit to Mashal Sport that such a miracle has been happening for over five seasons, since the time the grandiosely planned PKL was unveiled much to the delight of the players, fans and the global fraternity as a whole.

Take a look at how franchises splurged money during the player-auction. Extraordinary raider Monu Goyat was snapped by Haryana Steelers for a whopping ₹1.51 crore, which is an amount that even the equally iconic Sunil Chhetri could not command when ISL bigwig Bengaluru FC took him in.

Others hitting the jackpot in the crorepati league include top draws like Rahul Chaudhari (₹1.29cr), Deepak Niwas Hooda and Nitin Tomar (₹1.15cr), Rishank Devadiga (₹1.1cr), and Iran’s Fazel Athrachali, who went for Rs one crore!

Meanwhile, according to Star India, the fifth season of PKL, which opened in Hyderabad, was the highest rated non-cricket event on television with a gross impression of 3.3 billion.

The broadcaster’s Managing Director Sanjay Gupta reasons that with India having fully embraced its traditional sport, which gets evidenced by its rising popularity cutting across geographies and demographics, including in urban India, ‘PKL is the most watched sport spectacle after cricket.’

To the kabaddi fans from across the country, October 5 could be the date that they may be waiting for but to those from Telangana State, their imagination has soared a fortnight earlier with the successful conduct of the second edition of Telangana Pro Kabaddi League (TPKL).

The 16-day long TPKL, which climaxed at Saroornagar Indoor Stadium late Sunday night with Warangal Warriors capturing every fan’s minds with a magnificent title triumph, comes as the perfect prelude to the bigger and wider PKL.

As a team, Telugu Titans may have had a chequered run in the extravaganza but there is no denying that it commands a massive fan-following in the two Telugu-speaking States.

PKL VI Classification-Zone A: Dabang Delhi KC, Gujarat Fortunegiants, Haryana Steelers, Jaipur Pink Panthers, Puneri Paltan, U Mumba; Zone B: Bengal Warriors, Bengaluru Bulls, Patna Pirates, Tamil Thalaivas, Telugu Titans and UP Yoddha.

Well, it’s time for Le Panga, all over again!

Akhilesh Agarwal

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