Dabang Delhi are favorites to win PKL 7 final against Bengal Warriors
Pro Kabaddi League is the second most watched sport in India and it is giving a close run to cricket. Hosting a seventh tournament in five years is a testimony to this.
On July 20 In U Mumba beat Telugu Titans, in Hyderabad, to begin the proceedings of a long session of 132 league Matches and five eliminators. This has been the most grueling and most competitive of all the seasons.
The standard deviation between teams which qualified was as low as six points, which is equal to winning points earned in one match. So, till the final week it was still a guess as to which teams will enter the final six.
The two teams which stayed at the top were Dabang Delhi and Bengal Warriors. Both showed their class and bench strength in eliminators and will now face off in the finals.
Delhi defeated Bangalore who had Pawan Sehrawat in their ranks. The star had 339 raid points in PKL 7, setting him as the most prolific raider of the season. Bengal, on the other hand defeated U Mumba, which had Fazel Atrachali. The Iranian defensive stalwart had amassed 82 tackle points this season to top the charts.
Delhi is the fancied side to win
Dabang Delhi is the top team courtesy 21 straight super 10s by 19-year-old superstar Naveen Kumar.
Delhi were the table toppers this season with 85 points. The capital based side attained this position despite being beaten by Bengal Warriors in their second league meeting. The latter finished second with 83 points.
Head-to-head, Bengal tied their first match with Dabang Delhi but won their second encounter by 42-33.
In spite of all the odds in favour of Bengal, I am expecting Delhi to win on following counts.
Delhi has a class raider in Naveen and wonderful support in Chandran Ranjit and Sumit Kumar, who can revive him in case he is tackled. If we look at PKL's history, Mumbai won when they had Anoop Kumar and Shabbir Bappu. Patna won with the irrepressible Pradeep Narwal who was supported by Rohit Kumar for the first championship and for the next two, by Monu Goyat.
This confirms that hunting in pairs is the key to success. Furthermore, Naveen’s average out of the court is 9.3 minutes which is among the lowest and this illustrates that it is very difficult to tackle him.
In Bengal's case, Maninder Singh ,their star raider and captain with 205 points is injured, a loss which is irreparable. Sukesh Hegde and K. Prapanjan can fill the void but they don’t have the capacity to take the points tally to 40+. So, Bengal comes with a distinct disadvantage.
All Bengal fans will be praying for Maninder's recovery but shoulder injuries tend to have a longer recovery period
Dabang Delhi has Ravinder Pahal and Joginder Singh Narwal (captain), who are excellent tacklers. Ravinder with 62 tackle points and Joginder with 49 tackle points make a formidable pair. Their covers provide excellent support. Sukesh and Prapanjan will find it tough to go past them.
Bengal has Baldev Singh who has 65 tackle points but he can not defend bonus and Naveen has an excellent technique to earn bonus. The other corner is marshaled by Rinku Narwal, who has been the star with 62 tackle points. He can tame Naveen by his ankle holds as the latter is primarily a right side raider.
This is an area of weakness for both sides.
Naveen doesn’t participate in tackling and rest are only filling the gaps except Chandran, whose tackling on Pawan Sehrawat in the semifinals ensured Delhi's victory.
For Bengal, the situation is relatively better as Jeeva Kumar and Prapanjan are good support players. Bengal's success is due to their tight defence and they are the unsung heroes of their campaign.
Delhi's weakness lies in their dependence on Naveen. If he's caught by Rinku more than three times, it's the end of the road for Dabang Delhi.
Secondly, Delhi plays well only if they are in lead. If initial lead is taken by other team then Delhi tends to over-complicate things and lose. Ravinder, their right cover is impetuous and can fall prey.
Bengal is lacking a genuine raider and if Delhi's defence clamps up, then scoring points will be difficult. I fail to see any of Bengal's raiders making a super 10.
The Final Verdict
It will be a cautious game in Ahmedabad. There will be lots of empty raids. I expect game score to be 40+ for Delhi and 30+ for Bengal.
Naveen will score 15+ points and rest will be contributed by others. Sukesh will fall prey to Delhi's defensive unit and this will tilt the balance in Delhi's favor.
Witness the electric game at 8.00 pm at Eka Arena, Ahmedabad. The energy, passion and speed will enthrall you to the utmost sensory state. Do-or-die raids will raise your adrenaline, the Kabddi clap of thigh will charge you and close nature of score will push you to a different level of excitement.
Cover image credits: The Bridge