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Pro Kabaddi: With Big Money Signings And Young Defence, Haryana Steelers Aiming For Improved Performance

Season five's Pro Kabaddi League play-offs do not hold great memories for Haryana Steelers. Even though the team managed to reach the eliminator stage in their maiden appearance in the tournament, a Pardeep Narwal raiding masterclass meant that they were crushed 69-30 by Patna Pirates. Narwal recorded 34 raid points, which was the most by any raider in a single match in the history of the PKL, and the Steelers were eliminated.

News18 Sports

Updated:October 5, 2018, 6:25 PM IST
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Pro Kabaddi: With Big Money Signings And Young Defence, Haryana Steelers Aiming For Improved Performance
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Season five's Pro Kabaddi League play-offs do not hold great memories for Haryana Steelers. Even though the team managed to reach the eliminator stage in their maiden appearance in the tournament, a Pardeep Narwal raiding masterclass meant that they were crushed 69-30 by Patna Pirates. Narwal recorded 34 raid points, which was the most by any raider in a single match in the history of the PKL, and the Steelers were eliminated.

That defensive performance, however, was an aberration. Haryana's defence led by Surender Nada and Mohit Chhillar was solid throughout the tournament. And even though Chhillar will now be representing Jaipur Pink Panthers in season six of the PKL, coach Rambir Singh Khokhar has placed his faith in the team's youngsters to hold fort at the back in what he hopes will be a better season for his team.

The Steelers had their preparation camp at JSW's new sports facility in Bellary, and Khokhar said he was impressed with what he had seen from his players. "The young players have shown me in training that they are no less capable than Surender Nada. We have a replacement in Vikas. He played three matches at right corner last season and we won all three of them. So I think corners should not be a problem for us," Khokhar told Firstpost.

At the PKL auctions, it was the Steelers who made the headlines with the acquisition of Monu Goyat for an eye-watering price of 1.51 crores, making him the most expensive PKL player in history. He was excellent in attack for Patna Pirates last season along with Pardeep Narwal, and will now hope to climb out of the latter's shadow to excel as his new team's main man in attack.

Captain Surender Nada, and raiders Vikash Khandola and Wazir Singh will form an important part of the core for the team this season. While Nada was the top-scoring defender with 80 tackle points last season, Singh had 104 raid points by the end of the season.

While Kuldeep Singh was the only player to be retained by the team, raider Neeraj Kumar, right corner defender Vikas and all-rounder Mayur Shivtarkar were all re-signed by the top management.

With a raiding combination of Singh, Khandola and Goyat, the Steelers have a formidable attack this season. Khokhar is particularly excited about the prospect of Monu Goyat turning out for his team, and rates him very highly.

"He (Monu) is the best raider in the world today in my opinion and certainly the fittest around, he never tires. He can raid continuously every game and more importantly, he can do it for three months. He is sincere, hardworking, and goes about his job very calmly. He is so much like Anup Kumar, I think he can be the next one," Khokhar said.

"We have a star raider in Monu Goyat and a star defender in Surender Nada. Our plan was to build a team around these players. The characteristics of the players that we have will provide perfect support to these players. We have prepared well to handle the mental challenges that the league offers. So I think we will be able to perform well."

The PKL saw four seasons without a team being represented from Haryan, arguably the hot-bed of the sport in the country. After having experienced the league in their first season, the Steelers are now well equipped to launch an assault on the PKL title. They certainly have the attack to do so. The only question is whether their defence is strong enough to contain the other talented attacks in the league. If they hold strong at the back, season six might well turn out to be a successful one for them.
| Edited by: Madhav Agarwal
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