Bhubaneswar: State-owned, Odisha Juggernauts are all set to begin yet another campaign in the second edition of the Ultimate Kho-Kho, scheduled to take place between December 24, 2023 and January 13, 2024 at Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Cuttack.
As reigning champions, all eyes will be on Odisha Juggernauts who will hopefully be eager to replicate their exploits from their impressive first season. At the recently concluded player draft, Odisha has strengthened its team with the crucial retention of four players and the addition of numerous young players. The Odisha Juggernauts will be joined by Chennai Quick Guns, Gujarat Giants, Mumbai Khiladis, Rajasthan Warriors, and Telugu Yoddhas as the six teams compete for supremacy.
Returning to the squad will be the 20-year-old all-rounder, Dilip Khandvi, along with all-rounder Dipesh More. The Juggernauts have also retained the services of defenders Gowtham MK and Vishal. At the auction, Omkar Sonawane, Rohan Shingade, Akshay Masal, Mahesha P, Manoj Patil, Avinash Desai, Manoj Kumar, Visag S, Debendra Nath, Nikhil Kumar, Vishal Oram, Sanjay Kumar V, Deepak Kumar Sahoo, Nikhil B, MD Mirajul, Sushant Kaldhone, Sobhag V Sriganda, Niranjan Samal, Savir Ahmad, Suresh Kumar and Siddheswar Tudu were added to the Squad.
Shedding light on the auction strategy, head coach of the Odisha Juggernauts, Vinay Kumar Jaiswal said, “We have tried to retain our core strategy from last season which revolves around a strong defense and trusting young players to perform. I think we had a very successful auction, along with our retentions, we managed to get all the players that we wanted including high performers like Omkar Sonawane, Rohan Shingade and Manoj Kumar.”
Notably, Odisha secured the silver medal in Men’s and Women’s Kho-Kho at the recently concluded National Games in Goa. This year, the Juggernauts team will feature five Odia players who were also a part of the National Games squad, including Debendra Nath, Vishal Oram, Deepak Kumar Sahoo, Niranjan Samal and Siddheshwar Tudu.
Speaking on the home advantage for the Odisha Juggernauts, the coach opined, “I think in any sport playing at home is always an advantage. We are looking forward to the support of fans and I am sure it will inspire us to give our best. We do have many young players, who might feel the pressure in the early stages of the tournament, but I am confident that we have prepared very well.”
The Odisha Juggernauts will be in action on the 24th of December when they take on Rajasthan Warriors in the first game of the season.