Pro Kabaddi Season 5: UP Yoddha’s Strengths, Top Players & More
Team Uttar Pradesh have the potential to be the gold standard raiding team. Filled to the brim with talent with the likes of Rishank Devadiga, Nitin Tomar and all-rounder Rajesh Narwal, Team Uttar Pradesh have a brilliant raiding combination capable of winning matches on their own. With arguably the best raiding unit in their ranks, Team Uttar Pradesh are expected to rely on their attack to take them to the play-offs.
The defence will be led by experienced Jeeva Kumar, who was a part of the U Mumba team for the first 4 PKL campaigns. Jeeva will be expected to guide the defence, which is short of PKL experience. Barring Jeeva Kumar, none of the Team Uttar Pradesh defenders have played more than 15 PKL matches, highlighting the team’s reliance on the experienced Jeeva.
Captain: Nitin Tomar
Nitin Tomar debuted for Bengal Warriors in PKL 3 and made a huge impression scoring 77 raid points from 10 matches and played a huge role in helping Bengal Warriors reach their only semifinal in PKL history. He then swapped Bengal for Pune in PKL 4, but struggled to replicate his PKL 3 form, managing to score only 33 raid points. The UP native was then picked up by Team UP Yoddha for a staggering Rs 93 lakh, making him the most expensive player in PKL history.
The 22-year-old is very agile and quick on the mat and executes his hand touches, escapes and jumps to good effect. He also contributes in defence highlighted by his 30 assists. Team UP Yoddha will hope the Tomar of PKL 3 turns up leading the team to the semi-finals.
Coach: Udaya Kumar
Udaya Kumar will be coaching UP Yoddhas after managing Telugu Titans for 3 PKL campaigns. Hailing from Thiruvananthapuram, he coached the Gold Medal winning Indian kabaddi teams in both the 2002 Asian Games and the 2006 Asian Games. The Government of India honoured him with the Dronacharya Award in 2009.
The Titans improved to a 3rd place finish in PKL 2, losing out to the Bulls in the semi-final. Kumar missed PKL 3, but was back with Telugu Titans for season 4, and again coached the team to the playoffs, this time ending fourth.
The coach believes in an aggressive and fast paced game that the Titans exhibited in the past. He will need to get the defensive combination right, given that the team is devoid of battle-hardened PKL veterans, barring the irrepressible Jeeva Kumar.
With the likes of Nitin Tomar (77 raid points in PKL 3), Rishank Devadiga (best raider of PKL 3) & Rajesh Narwal (266 raid points in PKL), Team UP have the raiding prowess to outclass any defence this season. They also have quality back-ups in the form of Surender Singh who played a key role in Pune’s 3rd place finish in PKL 3 and Mahesh Goud who was part of the Patna Pirates’ PKL 4 winning squad
Weakknesses: Weak Defence
Apart from Jeeva Kumar, they do not have a renowned defender in their ranks. Additionally, their corners are inexperienced. Jeeva Kumar, too, struggled for consistency in PKL 3 in a floundering U Mumba defence. With Uttar Pradesh arguably possessing a weaker defence than U Mumba, there are question marks whether Jeeva can raise his game this time around.
Opportunities: Fringe players can shin
Uttar Pradesh have gone in with a relatively inexperienced defence which will give youngsters the chance to prove their quality. The likes of Hadi Tajik & Sagar Krishna have been a part of PKL teams previously, but have not had many opportunities to prove their quality. This will be their chance to shine
Threats: Bench Strength
They have explosive raiders, but Nitin Tomar, their most expensive raider, could score just 33 raid points whereas Rishank Devadiga managed just 70 raid points in PKL 4. If injuries or a loss-of-form occurs their replacements are not up to the same level: The defence is also suspect. Apart from Rajesh, Jeeva and Rishank, there is no one who has performed well in more than one season.
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