Leaving behind four forgettable seasons, a revamped Bengal Warriors are seeking inspiration from city’s cricket franchise Kolkata Knight Riders ahead of the upcoming Pro-Kabaddi League. KKR, the two-time Indian Premier League champions’ amazing turnaround after four trophy-less seasons, is what Bengal Warriors are looking at. The last edition’s laggards have not only have changed their coach and but have retained only two players — Jang Kun Lee and Ravinder Kumawat. Bengal Warriors finished at the bottom of the table last season and CEO Sandip Tarkas told the team at their first meeting: “We cannot go worse from here. We can only go up.” “Kolkata Knight Riders have been an inspiring story and we are looking forward to do a KKR this time,” he said during the unveiling of the squad. The 18-member squad will be led by India defender Surjeet Singh and coached by 2002 Asian Games gold medalist K Jagadeesha, who represented Jaipur Pink Panthers in the inaugural season. Korean raider Lee has been with Bengal Warriors since first season and is also the highest paid player in the team fetching Rs 80.3 lakh followed by Surjeet (Rs 73 lakh). “The side looks balanced. We have had a fruitful six weeks’ camp here and the team has shaped up well,” Tarkas said. Bengal Warriors’ best finish has been in season three when they made the play-offs. Pro-Kabaddi League season five will be longer with four new teams — Haryana Steelers, Gujarat Fortune grants, UP Yodha and Tamil Thailvas — joining the existing eight franchises. There will be 138 matches spread over three months beginning on July 28. “We are prepared for the longer league. The first target is to qualify for the last-four round and then win the title from there,” said captain Surjeet, who played for UMumba last season.
The Bengal leg will be from September 1-7. Meanwhile, Tarkas also said that talks with Bollywood star Akshay Kumar for buying stakes in the team is at an ‘advanced stage’. “It may happen that he may pull out of the deal. Until he signs the papers I cannot announce his name. We are waiting for his return from London and in two days’ time the picture will be clear,” the CEO said. “Not just glamour quotient, Akshay Kumar represents the ethos of the sport.