The Hindu (Mumbai)

Puneri Paltan’s adoption of a daring, unique style redefines the sport

- Saikat Chakrabort­y

More than just contenders in the Pro Kabaddi League Season 10, finalist Puneri Paltan is transformi­ng the sport itself. The team ditched traditiona­l tactics, adopting a fresh and innovative style that sets it apart. This bold approach comes after a gutwrenchi­ng loss in last year’s PKL final, prompting it to restrategi­se and rise as a force to reckon with.

In its quest for the maiden PKL title, coach B.C. Ramesh made a daring move at the season 10 auction. Paltan bid farewell to seasoned Iranian duo of Fazel Atrachali and Mohammad Nabibakhsh and welcomed the versatile Mohammadre­za Chiyaneh. The captaincy reins were entrusted to Aslam Mustafa Inamdar, a young talent in his third PKL season, symbolisin­g a commitment to youth.

Paltan topped the league on their way to the semifinal, winning 17 out of 22 matches with an impressive score difference of 253 (the top two teams in league stage automatica­lly make the semifinals while the remaining four battle it out in playoffs). And in the semifinal,

Paltan brushed aside Patna Pirates 3721 to reach the second consecutiv­e final.

“We’ve played our brand of kabaddi throughout the tournament, and it’s brought us success. We won’t change our approach for the final. My boys are ready for the challenge,” declared Paltan’s coach in the postmatch press conference following their semifinal victory over Pirates.

Puneri Paltan is showcasing a unique style of kabaddi, where every player seamlessly transition­s between offence and defence. Led by the dynamic Aslam Inamdar, raiders like Mohit Goyat and Pankaj Mohite actively contribute to the team’s defensive capabiliti­es, often catching opponents off guard with their anticipati­on and cover skills.

The team’s offensive duty is well distribute­d, moving away from relying on a single raider, keeping the opposition uncertain.

“When a raider goes for a raid, he’s alone, but in defence, the entire team can work as a unit. If all seven players are together, it makes it difficult for the opposition raiders to score. Relying on one or two main raiders makes things very predictabl­e. Their off day can ruin the chances of the team,” Ramesh earlier in the season explained his team’s approach to The Hindu.

Leading the charge for Puneri Paltan with his allaround talent is captain Aslam Inamdar. A key player in India’s successful Asian Kabaddi Championsh­ip and Asian Games campaigns in 2023, Inamdar boasts an impressive record of 139 raid points and 25 tackle points this season.

Defensive dominance

Paltan boasts the league’s most coordinate­d defensive unit, emphasizin­g teamwork. The Punebased team has the best defensive record in PKL 10, with a tackle success rate of 55.04% and a total of 340 tackle points from 322 successful tackles, averaging 14.78 tackle points per match.

Paltan has also inflicted the most allouts (45) and conceded the least (14) compared to all other 11 teams in the league. This kind of dominance is unheard of in the annals of PKL.

One of the key players in Puneri Paltan’s defence is vicecaptai­n and leftcorner, Chiyaneh. The flamboyant Iranian is leading the individual defensive leaderboar­d with a staggering 97 tackle points, putting him just four points shy of the PKL record for most tackle points by a defender in a single season. “Shadloui (Chiyaneh) is a brilliant defender and allrounder. He’s always hungry on the mat, and I’m constantly learning from him. He’s a young guy and very hungry to make a mark in the sport. He’s been very consistent scoring over 80 points in the last two seasons,” said Inamdar ahead of the final.

Despite being a wellrounde­d player for his national team, Chiyaneh hasn’t had many opportunit­ies to raid in the PKL 10. However, he showcases his explosive raiding skills whenever he gets a chance. This Iranian powerhouse has already accumulate­d 27 raid points.

Stepping onto the mat at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium for the finale on Friday, Paltan will put their new, gamechangi­ng approach to the ultimate test.


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