UP Yoddha had joined the Pro Kabaddi League in the year 2017 along with Tamil Thalaivas, Haryana Steelers, and Gujarat Fortunegiants. And, apart from the Ahmedabad-based team Fortunegiants, UP Yoddha are the second most successful team among all others. The team had managed to play in the playoffs on both the seasons but couldn’t make it into the finals.

The Rishank Devadiga-led team staged an amazing comeback towards the end of the league stage to make a late entry into the playoffs. UP Yoddha was not able to register a single win in their home leg in Greater Noida but on the Zone B points table, they overtook Patna Pirates and Telugu Titans to make it to the next round with a total of 57 points from 22 matches.

Although they had a great show in the playoffs as well by getting the better of teams like U Mumba and Dabang Delhi, a defeat against Gujarat Fortunegiants in the second qualifier restricted them from meeting Bengaluru Bulls in the summit clash. Speaking about the team’s performance in 2018, last year’s skipper Devadiga said that they missed out on becoming the champions last time around but hoped to claim the title in season 7. The raiding unit, which is almost the same like the previous year with Monu Goyat coming in place of Prashanth Rai, will give more strength to the side.

“Last season we missed out from being the champion, this time my target is to be the champions,” Devadiga told SportsCafe. “We have a good raiding unit and our team looks very strong in the offensive side. Monu and Shrikant are exceptional raiders.”

Before the start of the season last year, most of the kabaddi experts talked about the team’s raiding trio which had players like Jadhav and Rai along with experienced Devadiga. But, injury concerns for both Devadiga and Rai hurt the team’s chances in the beginning of the league. On the other hand, the defensive unit put up a great show with Nitesh Kumar, Jeeva Kumar and Narender on the mat.

Devadiga, however, looks forward to be on the top of the raiding department. He revealed that it was his injury that restricted him from putting up a great show in the league in the last season.

“Last season I struggled due to injury and in this season, I will be looking forward to be on the top in raiding department. As a senior player I can understand the young players and use them according to the requirements of the team and with the experience, I can lead the team,” explained the UP Yoddha skipper from season 6.

27-year-old Rishank had made his PKL debut under the captaincy of Anup Kumar in the U Mumba team. In the six seasons of the league, the Mumbai lad has played for only UP Yoddha apart from the team from his home city Mumbai. He was considered as one of the prolific raiders in the league in the season prior to the previous one and the 2019 edition will be his third consecutive year for the team from Uttar Pradesh.

Like many kabaddi players in India, Devadiga also feels that it was the start of the Pro Kabaddi League that changed the shape of the sport in the country and also transformed his life. According to Devadiga, the big achievement for him is people recognizing him as a kabaddi player these days.

“Pro kabaddi has a huge impact in my life people all over India recognize me as a kabaddi player that is the biggest achievement for me, it has also grown the respect for my family all over,” the raider concluded.

[The article was originally published on www.sportscafe.in]