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Trust the process: Puneri Paltan lifts PKL title on the back of youth power

A youthful Puneri Paltan defeated Haryana Steelers in the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) season 10 final to become the champion for the first time.

Trust the process: Puneri Paltan lifts PKL title on the back of youth power

Puneri Paltan has won their first-ever title in the 10th season of the Pro Kabaddi League.


Pritish Raj

Updated: 2 March 2024 9:21 AM GMT

As the clock was ticking down on the season ten finale and Puneri Paltan's Mohit Goyat was in the opponent's half, the echoes of the past seasons resonated.

Back in season nine, another Puneri Paltan raider Aditya Shinde was trying to battle Jaipur Pink Panthers skipper Sunil Kumar in the final.

But there was one difference this time as the clock ran down. Puneri Paltan emerged as the champion as the side lifted its first-ever PKL title, becoming the seventh team to win the coveted title.

It took ten seasons and a second final for Puneri Paltan, one of the founding teams of the league, to cross the finishing line but everything seemed worth it when its young brigade lifted the trophy.

Led by the home-grown prodigy Aslam Inamdar, Puneri Paltan defeated dark horses Haryana Steelers 28-25 in the final and handed coach Manpreet Singh his third defeat in the final.

While the victory came against the backdrop of the team's organised and dedicated effort in the season, beyond the mat, Puneri Paltan reaped the benefits of showing trust in the process and investing in youth.

A well-oiled machine

When Puneri Paltan finished second last season, it didn't have substantial reasons to finish at the position. It should have done much better.

On the day of the deciding clash, Puneri lost to a better team in the form of Jaipur Pink Panthers. After reliving the mercurial Fazel Atrachali, the management went all out against Shadluoi and got him in the auction for a record-breaking sum.

Apart from the auction, the team had retained most of its players from last year.

The team functioned like a well-oiled machine with every part working in tandem. Despite being the table toppers at the end of the round-robin stage, Puneri had only one raider and a defender in the top 10.

Everyone contributed to the team's success with reserved player Akash Shinde coming and making an impact whenever he was summoned to the court.

Apart from the well-balanced team, Puneri had players with dynamic skills who could adapt to multiple roles. In the starting seven, Puneri always had four players who could raid and tackle.

Shadlu scored 27 raid points, while Aslam and Mohit chipped in with 26 and 44 tackle points each, giving the team a more dynamic identity.

Trusting the process: Investment in Youth

One of the best things about Puneri Paltan is the youth academy, where it grooms and develops players. The decision to set up Yuva Paltan bore fruits for the franchise as its core comes from the Yuva Paltan.

Captain Aslam Inamdar, raider Mohit Goyat, Final player of the match Pankaj Mohite, and the likes of Akash Shinde and Aditya Shinde have graduated from the Yuva Paltan and have helped the team lift its maiden title.

The young team has played together since its youth and for the past three seasons, it has been playing together in the Pro Kabaddi League making its co-ordination strong on and off the mat.

One has to bow a hat to coach BC Ramesh who has won his third trophy in PKL. He earlier won one with Bengaluru Bulls as an assistant coach and then one with Bengal Warriors as a head coach.

His apt handling of his resources ensured that Puneri Paltan clinched the title without hiccups.

Legendary Indian raider Anup Kumar might not have been with the team at the moment of crowning glory but he was the one who trusted these players and gave them starts two seasons back. Back then it reached the playoffs but failed to move to the final.

The side's success has now essentially set the benchmark for others to look up in a franchise-based league.

Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles

Legendary football manager Sir Alex Ferguson once famously said, "Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles." While the quote was said in the context of football, it holds relevance in modern-day Kabaddi too.

Both teams playing the final of season ten have the most tackle points.

Puneri Paltan scored a total of 950 points (464 raid points + 349 tackle points), the highest among all the twelve teams.

The defensive quartet of Mohammedreza Shadloui, Gaurav Khatri, Sanket Sawant, and Abinesh Nadarajan kept all the raiders on the toe throughout the tournament.

Shadlu became the best defender in the tournament with 99 tackle points and justified his price tag while another corner Gaurav Khatri scored 69 tackle points.

Performing in clutch moments

One of the most important virtues of any winning team is its mentality when it rallies under pressure.

Puneri Paltan came in clutch and overcame the tough situations throughout the tournament. It scored most do-or-die raid points, conceded the least all-outs, and was never in a situation to get overpowered by the opponents.

In the final, one such magical moment from Pankaj Mohite turned the game for the Paltan as he scored a super raid of four points in the 18th minute giving his team a window to capitalise on.

In a landmark season of the Pro Kabaddi League, the tale of Puneri Paltan's ascension to glory in its tenth season weaves a narrative rich with perseverance, strategy, and youthful zeal.

With a blend of youthful exuberance and strategic astuteness, Puneri Paltan redefined the contours of success in the league and set a blueprint for the upcoming seasons.

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