Puneri Paltan are one out of two original teams from the inaugural season of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), which haven't played a final in the league so far. The Pune-based franchise only managed to finish at the 3rd position in both Seasons 3 and 4 — their best performance to date.
The franchise has witnessed many notable players like Manjeet Chhillar, Ajay Thakur, Wazir Singh, Sandeep Narwal, and Dharmaraj Cheralathan donning the orange jersey. Puneri Paltan have been known for their standout raiders and a dominant defensive line-up.
Here, we take a look at three players whom Puneri Paltan should never have released.
#3 Rinku Narwal
The Haryana-born Rinku Narwal made his debut for the Puneri Paltan in the fifth edition of the league. At that time, Girish Ernak was doing well for the team as the regular left corner. It forced the emerging talent to sit on the bench as a substitute player. However, he impressed everyone in every single opportunity that he gained in the process.
Rinku could play only 28 matches and score 41 tackle points in two seasons with Puneri Paltan. He came in as a substitute most of the time. The side failed to use this ace defender to his full potential. He got released the next season and was snapped up by the Bengal Warriors.
A brilliant corner combination with Baldev Singh aided Rinku Narwal in leading the Warriors defense with sheer dominance. In the 23 matches he played, Rinku scored 64 tackle points with four High-5s, at an average of 2.6 per game. He regularly went for dives and thigh holds, and broke the opposition's momentum with his fearless defending.
His corner duet with Baldev Singh played a pivotal role in leading the Bengal Warriors to their maiden trophy in Season 7. On the other hand, Puneri Paltan couldn't rely much upon their defense after he left.
#2 Ravinder Pahal
PKL 2's best defender Ravinder Pahal had a magnificent start to his campaign for the Dabang Delhi K.C. in the second edition of the tournament. The Hawk picked up a brilliant 60 tackle points at an average of 3.78.
Puneri Paltan signed him in the fourth season of the PKL. Pahal then got a chance to play alongside Manjeet Chhillar and Joginder Narwal. He managed to clinch 37 tackle points in 14 matches at a decent average of 2.5. His performance helped Puneri Paltan to score points in the defense dominantly. It paved the way for the side to qualify for the semifinals, but they lost to Patna Pirates.
As Ravinder Pahal got released in the auction next year, he did well for Bengaluru Bulls in PKL 5, with 52 tackle points. He showed consistency in the latter two seasons with a haul of 122 tackle points for his former franchise Dabang Delhi K.C. He reached the 300-tackle point mark in PKL 7. Pahal currently stands as the second-best defender in PKL history with a total of 326 tackle points and 23 High-5s.
Puneri Paltan have continued to struggle at the right corner position for the past two seasons. They couldn't find a perfect partner for Girish Ernak, and the team underwent a full revamp in PKL 7. Looking at the current state, it is evident that Puneri Paltan should never have released Ravinder Pahal.
#1 Deepak Niwas Hooda
Although Deepak Niwas Hooda made his PKL debut with the Telugu Titans, his three-season run with the Puneri Paltan stood out. His meteoric rise to the scene came under the captaincy of Manjeet Chhillar in PKL 3. It prepped him up to be a leader in the latter seasons.
When Puneri Paltan signed big names in PKL 3, Ajay Thakur was expected to lead the offense with Deepak Niwas Hooda as his support. However, the former couldn't perform well because of his sickness and injury issues. It paved the way for Deepak to lead the offensive line-up on his own.
Deepak amassed 69 and 126 raid points in Seasons 3 and 4 respectively. Because of his magnificent performances, he got the captaincy hat in PKL 5. Hooda scored 172 raid points at an average of 7.16 per game that season. He also significantly contributed as a left cover at times. Hooda ultimately became Puneri Paltan's top-scoring player ever, with 392 total points in three editions.
As Deepak Niwas Hooda went on to play for the Jaipur Pink Panthers in PKL 6, the team not only lost a capable all-rounder but a leader as well. Puneri Paltan couldn't manage a playoffs spot in the next two seasons without him. They lacked consistency with lots of chopping and changing of players, and couldn't find a rhythm at all.
A calculative player with immense experience, Deepak Niwas Hooda is undoubtedly the best all-rounder in PKL today. It shows how Puneri Paltan highly regret dropping him from their squad.