U.P. Yoddhas - owned by the GMR Group - grabbed the headlines mid-way through the Pro Kabaddi League Season 9 as they appointed Pardeep Narwal as the new captain on November 5. Earlier, Nitesh Kumar opted to step down from his role for the past two seasons.
The Yoddhas endured an inconsistent start to the 2022 season with four wins in nine games. Why Pardeep? The ‘Dubki King’ has established a legacy that will remain unmatched for quite some time and merited his chances as a first-choice candidate for the U.P. Yoddhas captaincy.
We identify the key takeaways from the U.P. Yoddhas’ campaign in Pro Kabaddi League Season 9 after Pardeep Narwal took over as captain.
Result turnaround and playoffs qualification: The U.P. Yoddhas were placed 10th on the points table following the opening nine games. However, with a change in captaincy, the Yoddhas would win nine of their next ten games (seven wins and two draws).
The franchise would end the group stage with a fourth-place finish in PKL9 (12 wins, eight losses, two draws in 22 games) and qualify for the playoffs stage since their debut in season five in 2017.
Team morale: From the get-go, there was early pressure on U.P. Yoddhas - a fan favourite team in PKL history, to have a confident run of results in the initial games of the schedule. However, mixed results took a toll on the team, especially record-breaker Pardeep Narwal struggling to notch raid points early in the season.
But Narwal, upon taking the captaincy, injected renewed confidence into the team as they turned around their form and carried the new-found morale to the playoffs.
The U.P. Yoddhas’ maintained their confidence in the Eliminator against the Tamil Thalaivas. From trailing 14-16 at half-time, the Pardeep Narwal-led side enforced a 36-36 draw. While the Yoddhas would eventually fall to a 4-6 defeat in the tie-breaker, the fans applauded the grit and commitment the players showed on the mat following the change in captaincy.
While the Pro Kabaddi League Season 9 was another trophyless season for the U.P. Yoddhas, the remarkable turnaround after the first nine games serves as an important lesson for the team to come back stronger next season.
Should Pardeep Narwal stay, the raider is expected to hold onto the captaincy role and possibly inspire the team to go one step further to lift a maiden PKL title.