PWL 2017: Sakshi Malik, Geeta Phogat to spearhead Indian challenge

NEW DELHI
2 Jan 2017

With the likes of Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt opting out, all eyes will be on Rio Olympics bronze-medallist Sakshi Malik and the Phogat sisters, who are making headlines owing to their blockbuster biopic ’Dangal’, when the second edition of Pro Wrestling League (PWL) starts in New Delhi on Monday.

Although much of the sheen is lost due to the absence of star male Indian wrestlers, including the suspended Narsingh Yadav, the women are expected to shine during the 18-day long event to be held at the KD Jadhav Wrestling Stadium.

Six franchises -- Delhi Sultans, UP Dangal, Haryana Hammers, NCR Punjab Royals, Mumbai Maharathi and Jaipur Ninjas -- will be vying for the top honours with the final being slated on January 19.

The spotlight will be on Sakshi Malik, representing Delhi Sultans, and her bout against Geeta Phogat of UP Dangal team in women’s 58kg is expected to grab the maximum eyeballs.

In the most anticipated bout of the tournament, Sakshi, who is finally out of the shadow of Geeta with an Olympic medal, would be carrying an immense burden of expectations on her shoulders while the eldest Phogat sister would also be under pressure.

She has been in the limelight after the Aamir Khan-starrer biopic on her struggles -- ‘Dangal’ -- proved to be a mammoth box office success.

Besides Sakshi, the Delhi team boosts of Ukrainian Mariya Stadnik (women’s 48kg), who won a bronze at the 2008 Olympics before bagging silver at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and Uzbekistan’s Bekzod Abdurakhmonov (men’s 70kg), who finished fifth at the Rio Games.

Geeta and Babita Phogat will be at the forefront for the UP Dangal team. Belarus’ Maria Mamashuk, who clinched the silver at the Rio Olympics, will be the foreign import to look out for. However, Cuba’s Livan Lopez Azcuy has opted out of the tournament and is being replaced by Tariel Gaprindashvili.

Meanwhile, it is going to be an interesting inaugural match between Mumbai and Haryana tomorrow and the latter would be desperate to avenge the last season’s defeats.

Mumbai had beaten Haryana twice last season. Once during the league stage, the defending champs got the better of Haryana 4-3 and then bagged the trophy with a comprehensive 7-2 win in the final.