The Pro Kabaddi League will return to action on Saturday and the tournament is all set to rule TV sets for the next four months as fans look forward to another season of enthralling kabaddi.
Along with the auction, the format change is also making the buzz with the tournament back to double round-robin format. For the last two seasons, 12 teams were divided into two zones and every team played the team in their zone thrice. There was an inter-zonal round where a team played the six teams in the other zone. Along with these, a random mid-season draw was conducted as each team played one wildcard inter-zonal match. This meant that every team had to play a total of 22 matches.
This time around, the teams will have to play the same number of matches, but in a league format where every team plays each other twice.
Haryana Steelers coach Rakesh Kumar said, "Now, all teams must play every other team twice. So that makes it an equal competition for all."
There is a chance that we may have a fairer Champion, as teams now have to play every team at least twice in the course of the tournament and they cannot play one match with teams they struggle against.
There is also a change in the number of home games as teams had to play six games in seven days in their home leg and this took a toll on players with regard to their injuries and strategies. This season, teams will have to play only four matches in their home leg which means that most of the matches will be played at neutral venues.
Last season, Bengal Warriors' side had to deal with injuries as their raiders couldn’t cope with the heavy schedule and the team was left with only Maninder Singh where much of the burden of the side was on his shoulders. The side won two of the last four games in the league stage on their home ground, which was the final leg of the tournament.
Among other changes for the format, the teams will play 11 games at the end of the league stage which suggests the race for the playoffs will get all the more interesting and it will most probably be a neck-to-neck fight between teams fighting for a Top 4 spot.
The playoffs will be played in a different style as well as the side placed first and second will qualify for the semi-finals and teams placed 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th will fight in the Eliminator 1 and Eliminator 2 to play the top two sides later in the playoff stages.
It is interesting that the tournament has moved from the previous format with concerns over the fitness of players in the previous two editions. Factors as fatigue and tiredness will be reduced and with every team playing every team twice, we may have a fairer Champion along with a tough and close PKL.