Three years ago, when Amaresh Mondal boarded a plane to Melbourne to take part in the Australian Rules Football International Cup in 2014, kabaddi was far from his mind. As the ARF – popularized in India by a handful of locals and nurtured by coaches from its spiritual home, Australia – was making inroads into this cricket-crazy nation, Amaresh quickly emerged as the face of the game. But a meeting with Arjuna awardee and former India kabaddi team captain Biswajit Palit a couple of years ago changed Amaresh’s perspective. As the Pro Kabaddi League announced trials to select candidates for players’ auction for the fifth season, Amaresh didn’t waste the opportunity. Having gone through the selection process, involving more than 5000 aspiring players, the 22-year-old made it to the players’ auction in May and was eventually picked up by Bengal Warriors. “It’s a dream come true for me to play in the PKL. Hopefully, I can fall back on my ARF experience to be successful in kabaddi, since both are body-contact games,” said Amaresh, who hails from Bongaon and is doing a BA course in a local college. Amaresh’s thirst for success in his new ‘venture’ also represents his team’s push for a fresh beginning in the league. Having finished last in PKL-4, Bengal Warriors have decided to completely overhaul the team. Only two players – South Korean star Jang Kun-lee and fellow raider Ravinder Kumawat – have been retained. Having roped in a new captain, in World Cup-winning defender Surjeet Singh, and a new coach in 2002 Asian Games gold-medallist K Jagadeesha, the Warriors are determined to turn a new life. “During the auction, we deliberately avoided drafting injured players. Since the team has a new set of players, we started our preparation camp (at the Tolly Club) four days after the auction. Our maximum attention has been on fitness and team combination which will be vital to sustain us through the tournament,” Jagadeesha pointed out during the team’s unveiling here on Tuesday. Surjeet, too, sounded optimistic.
Having been picked up for Rs 73 lakh at the auction, the Warriors captain lends solidity to the defence. “We may have a new team, but we have got the balance to be title challengers,” said the 27-year-old India defender, who hails from Sonepat, Haryana. Warriors are also taking inspiration from two-time Indian Premier League champions Kolkata Knight Riders. In the 2013 season of the cash-rich T20 league, KKR finished seventh out of nine teams, only to bounce back strongly and emerge champions the very next season. “We may have finished last in PKL-4, but we believe that we have it in us to rise like KKR and become champions this season,” Warriors CEO Sandip Tarkas maintained.Akshay linked to Warriors: After Abhishek Bachchan (Jaipur Pink Panthers) and Sachin Tendulkar (Tamil Thalaivas), Akshay Kumar is set to be the next celebrity co-owner of a PKL team.
According to Tarkas, talks are “in very advanced stage” with the Bollywood actor to become a co-owner of Bengal Warriors. “Our idea is to bring on board someone who adds glamour and value to the team.