‘Most toughest season’, the organisers had termed the Season 7 of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) and as the tournament progressed, eventually it really turned out to be a nail-biting edition where all experienced teams with some great players in their ranks are back home and two new teams — Dabang Delhi and Bengal Warriors, who have never played a final, are all set to be up against each other on Saturday.
Undoubtedly, when two teams — considered as underdogs of the league before the start of the season — meet in the summit clash after outclassing the giants of the sport, another edge of the seat match is bound to be expected.
However, the Bengal camp would be worried as their skipper and star player Maninder Singh was on bench in the semi-finals and the B.C. Ramesh-coached side will pray for their leader’s early recovery before Saturday’s contest. Meanwhile, Delhi would hope that he misses to be on the mat as it could be an easy outing for them.
IANS looks at the strengths and weaknesses of both the sides for one final time this season:
When it come to the raiding department, young Naveen Kumar will once again lead the charge for Delhi. With 21 consecutive Super 10s and, a league record, Naveen has had a campaign to remember. The youngster has broken numerous records in his 22 appearances so far this season and has led Delhi to their maiden semi-final appearance in the league.
While Naveen has undoubtedly been Delhi’s lead raider, his teammates Chandran Ranjit and all-rounder Vijay have also been quite impactful in attack, scoring 116 and 45 raid points respectively. Their attack also boasts of the experienced Meraj Sheykh, who has come in handy over the course of the season.
For Bengal, Maninder has led the attack from the front and registered his second straight 200-raid point campaign in the process. He has already recorded his best performance in a match this season with his 19-raid point showing against Jaipur Pink Panthers. He also recorded the most Super 10s he has ever recorded in a single season (10) and equalled his record for the most Super Raids in a single season (6) while averaging more than 10 raid points per game.
A smart finisher, Maninder has proven vital in finishing close matches in his team’s favour. He has found strong support in K. Prapanjan, Mohammad Nabibakhsh and Sukesh Hegde this season. Thus, Bengal have three raiders who have more than 75 raid points in the season, making them one of the most potent raiding units in the league.
When it comes to the defenders, veteran Ravinder Pahal has enjoyed another outstanding campaign for Delhi, finishing the league campaign as the team’s leading tackle point scorer with 59 in 21 appearances. The right corner has been well-supported by his partner on the opposite flank, team captain Joginder Singh Narwal, who has 49 tackle points this season.
Cover defenders Vishal Mane and Amit Kumar have also been reliable, scoring 27 and 37 tackle points respectively. Delhi’s decision to retain their experienced defensive trio of Pahal, Joginder and Mane coupled with the addition of Amit Kumar has worked out just as well as they would have hoped. The defence has looked formidable throughout the season and they would be aiming to continue that run for one final time.
On the other hand, Baldev Singh will once again lead the defence for Bengal. He has already crossed the three-digit mark in tackle points from just 23 games with an impressive strike rate of 55.17. His average of 2.59 tackle points is already much better than his 1.33 tackle point average in last season. Sitting second in the list of most High 5s in the season with 6, Baldev could prove to be a major threat for Delhi.
The team management will surely want Baldev to keep his good show going and to keep Naveen off the mat as much as they can.
Rinku Narwal sits just four tackle points shy of Baldev, making Bengal one of only two teams with two defenders in the top 10 best defenders of the season so far. Jeeva Kumar’s big match experience, too, could prove important for Bengal as they chase their maiden PKL title.
Overall, when both the teams will leave no stone unturned to lift the trophy after a hard work of three long months, it is difficult to predict any team as favourite as both of them have their advantages and shortcomings.
PKL 8: Patna Pirates beat Puneri Paltan 38-26
Raider Sachin scored 10 points as three-time champions Patna Pirates defeated Puneri Paltan 38-26 in Match 17 of Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) Season 8 at The Sheraton Grand, Whitefield, on Tuesday. Sachin scored a Super 10 (10 points) and was ably supported by Patna’s defensive trio of Sunil (4 points), Mohammadreza Chiyaneh (3 points), and Sajin C (3 points). The lack of a quality raider despite promising performances from youngsters will be a cause of concern for the Puneri Paltan who succumbed to their second loss in three matches.
All eyes were once again on Pune’s Rahul Chaudhari but the showman, despite starting the match, was substituted for young Mohit Goyat by coach Anup Kumar in the first half. The trio of raiders including Aslam Inamdar and Pankaj Mohite caused problems for the Patna defence while at the other end Prashant Kumar Rai and Sachin were equally effective.
Patna were facing the risk of an all-out with six minutes left to half-time, but their defender Sajin C completed a Super Tackle to turn the momentum. The three-time champions got lucky later when Monu Goyat entered the lobby without contact, in a do-or-die raid only to be followed by three Pune defenders who had been deceived by his actions. The first half ended 14-14 with Pune having just two men on the mat.
Pune coach Anup Kumar clearly expected from his set of raiders and brought in Shubham Shelke for Pankaj Mohite in the second half. But Patna kept fighting back, thanks to the largely confident tackles from the likes of Mohammadreza Chiyaneh and Sajin. With 10 minutes remaining, Patna had a four-point lead and that was extended a’ Pune’s plan to play on the Do-or-Die raid backfired. Sachin scored two points in the crucial raid for Patna to inspire another ALL OUT in the 13th minute and open a 10-point lead.
Patna maintained the momentum and though Sunil and Vishal Bharadwaj picked up yellow cards in the final minutes as the match became intense the three-time champions ensured there was no late comeback by Pune and clinched an important win.
PKL 8: Bengal Warriors beat Gujarat Giants
Bengal Warriors defeated Gujarat Giants 31-28 on Day 3 of the Pro Kabaddi League Season 8 held at The Sheraton Grand, Whitefield, here on Friday. This was Bengal Warriors’ second win in as many matches while Gujarat Gaints have one win and one loss. The Warriors have 10 points the same as Dabang Delhi but are placed second on a lower points-difference while Gujarat have six points.
Bengal Warriors started well and established a slender lead (16-11) against Gujarat Giants at half-time. They maintained their advantage despite the valiant efforts of the Gujarat Giants, managed to register a narrow victory.
Maninder Singh was the top scorer for Bengal Warriors with eight points while Esmaeil Nabibakhsh contributed four points.
Bengal Warriors won 18 raid points as against 19 by Gujarat Giants. But it was in defence that they scored, claiming 10 points as against eight by their rivals. They bagged two all-outs as against none by the Giants.
Rakesh Narwal was the top scorer for Gujarat Giants with 12 points while Rakesh Sungroya contributed four points.
Rishabh Pant appointed as Uttarakhand’s brand ambassador
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on Sunday announced that Indian wicket-keeper batsman Rishabh Pant has been appointed as the brand ambassador of the state.
Taking to Twitter, the Chief Minister said that Pant will encourage the youngsters to take up sports.
“One of the best cricket players of India, the idol of youth and son of Uttarakhand, Rishabh Pant has been appointed as “State Brand Ambassador” by our government with the aim of encouraging the youth of the state towards sports and public health,” tweeted Dhami in Hindi, along with the video.
In the video, CM Dhami can be seen interacting with Rishabh and asking about his well-being.
The attacking batter also thanked the Chief Minister for the opportunity, saying that he will try his best to motivate people towards fitness.
“Thank you @pushkardhami sir for giving me the opportunity to be the Brand Ambassador of promoting Sports and General Health among the people of Uttarakhand. I’ll do my best to spread this message and feeling happy that you are taking these steps towards a fitter India,” tweeted Pant.
“Coming from a small town of Roorkee, I am confident that the people here have the ability to make the country proud in various fields of life,” he added.
The 24-year Pant, who was rested for the New Zealand Tests, is currently in Johannesburg, South Africa as the Indian Team is all set to face Proteas in the three-match Test series, starting December 26.
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