These veterans of the sport have seen life both on the mat and on the sidelines.
Season 9 of the PKL is set to begin in October and it will feature a number of notable players. We saw some spectacular picks by franchises in the recently concluded PKL auction. These included Pawan Sehrawat, who was bought for ₹2.26 crores by Tamil Thalaivas. Also, Pardeep Narwal grabbed attention in the auction with a ₹90-lakh bid by the Gujarat Giants. But, UP Yoddha used their FBM to retain his services for the upcoming season.
Let us go to the flashback to check out the top five PKL players who later became coaches. Here is the list of these five notable names:
5. Gurpreet Singh
Gurpreet Singh is one of the big names in the history of Kabaddi. He played for a couple of franchises in the first few seasons, including Bengaluru Bulls and Puneri Paltan, but couldn’t make his name in the renowned league. Gurpreet served his respective teams as a right-corner defender and was brilliant for his timely blocks and waist pulls. He was also known as ‘The Wall’ due to his extraordinary defending skills.
Gurpreet represented India at the 2010 and 2014 Asian Games, where the team bagged a gold medal. He was drafted in as the assistant coach of the Puneri Paltan in PKL 7. Though the team failed to qualify for the playoffs, Gurpreet managed to uplift the defence of the Paltan.
4. Jagdish Kumble
Jagdish Kumble was a part of the Jaipur Pink Panthers in the inaugural season that won the PKL title. As service players were not allowed to play in the PKL in the first couple of seasons, Kumble was a part of the Pink Panthers in the first few games of the third season. His inclusion in the squad was due to his rich experience in the past.
Kumble was signed as the Bengal Warriors’ coach in the fifth and sixth editions of the league and the Warriors qualified for the playoffs in both seasons under his guidance. He later shifted to the Telugu Titans in the seventh edition, but his team couldn’t qualify for the playoffs.
3. Manpreet Singh
Known as one of the best coaches in the Pro Kabaddi League, Manpreet Singh guided Gujarat Giants to two straight finals as a coach in the PKL 5 and 6 respectively. The prominent name in the sport, Manpreet, played for Patna Pirates in the PKL 3 and also captained the side in his only season that won their maiden title.
Though his stats were very ordinary, the way he led his team was a treat to watch in the third season. During that stint as captain, the team also included Pardeep Narwal, Sandeep Narwal, and Rohit Kumar in pivotal roles.
2. Rakesh Kumar
Rakesh Kumar’s name will always be there whenever we talk about the best players India has ever had to date. Though his PKL stats didn’t do justice to the kind of player he was, Rakesh changed the phase of Indian Kabaddi single-handedly with some phenomenal achievements to his name. He was a member of the squad that won the Kabaddi World Cup in 2004 and 2007. He also created headlines by clinching gold medals in 2006, 2010, and 2014 editions of the Asian Games.
Rakesh played for Patna Pirates, U Mumba, and Telugu Titans in different seasons of the PKL, scoring 186 raid points and 74 tackle points overall. He was drafted in as the head coach of the Haryana Steelers in the seventh season, where he took them into the playoffs.
1. Anup Kumar
“Captain Cool” and “King of Bonus” are a couple of titles Anup Kumar has received during his illustrious career. Anup performed admirably until the final match of his PKL career. He used to be the phase of U Mumba and even helped them win the title in the second season as a captain.
Kumar is one of the finest captains India has ever produced in Kabaddi history, as the Gurgaon-based Kabaddi player led his side to a historic victory in the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup. He played a crucial role in making India victorious in the 2010 and 2014 Asian Games and also in the South Asian Games.
Overall, Anup had 527 raid points in 91 games in the PKL, including 13 Super 10s. He became the head coach of the Puneri Paltan in the PKL 7. Though the team didn’t qualify for the playoffs, his stint as a “Cool Coach” will always be remembered.