BENGALURU: The two best teams in the league stages – Patna Pirates and Dabang Delhi KC – will face each other in the final of VIVO Pro Kabaddi League Season 8 on Friday (25 February).
The gruelling 136-match-long battle has undoubtedly been one of the most competitive seasons in PKL history.
Patna showed their squad superiority in the semi-final against UP Yoddha with their defence completely nullifying the raiding duo of Pardeep Narwal and Surender Gill. Similarly, Delhi, season 7 runners up, relied on their experienced defence to stop Bengaluru Bulls and Pawan Sehrawat to secure another shot at winning the title.
Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles
Patna, with their hybrid kabaddi players who can both attack and defend, have shown the future of the sport this season. They lost their star raider Pardeep Narwal, who won them 3 titles in his reign, at the 2021 auctions. But they invested in a collective ideology – where the team is the star – and that has paid rich dividends.
Iranian left-corner Mohammadreza Shadloui, who leads the table for most tackle points this season, might be the player under the spotlight but coach Ram Mehar Singh will know his success has only been possible due to the selfless assistance from cover defenders Neeraj Kumar and Sajin C. It is the same story with the attack – Sachin is undoubtedly their lead raider but Guman Singh, Prashanth Rai and Monu Goyat have all chipped in with important contributions.
Speaking about facing Dabang Delhi KC in the PKL Season 8 final, Patna Pirates coach Ram Mehar Singh said, “I am very proud of my team and their achievements this season. All of them have played their role to perfection which has resulted in us qualifying for the final of PKL Season 8. We are really excited to be playing Dabang Delhi who are a good team with a balance of both, young and experienced players. Patna Pirates have shown great consistency and strength in offence and defence right through the tournament. We will have certain plans to tackle Naveen Kumar and their powerful raiders, but we will also have our strategies for the entire team as well. I am confident with my team, and I know that they will give more than 100 per cent to ensure we win the title for the fourth time. This is going to be a thrilling final and we can’t wait for it.”
Patna’s strength is their unity in defence. It was perhaps best seen by the way Prashanth Rai took care of Pardeep Narwal’s dangling hand during a crucial raid in the semi-final. Had the hand crossed the mid-line it would have resulted in a giant raid. But the Patna captain was there at the right time to support his team. It is this confidence – that the entire team will follow you in support – that has made Patna’s defence lethal in Season 8.
Interestingly, they have struggled in both the matches against Delhi in the league stages. They lost the first match thanks to an incredible performance from all-rounder Sandeep Narwal. The second duel was a low-scoring affair which Delhi won thanks to Manjeet Chhillar’s High 5. These experienced stars will once again be the key for Dabang in the final. Taking the attack to Patna might be a bad ploy considering the form of their defenders. Delhi will need to slow down the tempo of the match and let their experienced stars dictate the court.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man
In Naveen Kumar, they have a dynamic raider who can change the mat in a matter of seconds. He has not looked in his peak fitness but the youngster is a big match performer. What Delhi will need to do is to stay within touching distance of Patna till the last minute of the match. Patna have looked jittery in Super Tackle situations with both Sachin and Guman conceding easy points to teams down to three (or fewer) defenders. If Delhi finds themselves on the backfoot, they should not concede an easy ALL OUT and make Patna earn for it.
Speaking about facing Patna Pirates in the final, Dabang Delhi coach Krishan Kumar Hooda said, “Patna Pirates are one of the most balanced sides in the tournament. They have got really good players who can turn the match around at any moment. But we also have a good team and we will make our strategies according to them. Mohammadreza Shadloui will be among our top concerns, but we will make our plans for him. I am confident with my team and they have shown their capability throughout the season and in the semi-final. On the day, it’s anybody’s game, but I can guarantee that it will be a great final.”
In fact, the match could be decided by the “non-superstars” in both teams. Neeraj Narwal’s cameo made a big difference in the semifinal for Delhi while all-rounder Vijay has been the unsung hero all season. Patna’s cover defenders Sajin and Neeraj Kumar don’t often win the plaudits for their efforts in the defence but are vital cogs. They also have a great all-rounder in Monu who has been crucial in implementing coach Ram Mehar Singh’s strategies, often coming off the bench to be the super substitute. A final is the biggest occasion in an athlete’s career – will it be the experienced stars or the future flagbearers who have the last laugh?
Tune In details (25/02/2022)
8:30 PM: FINAL - Patna Pirates vs Dabang Delhi K.C.
The final can be watched LIVE on Star Sports Network and Disney+ Hotstar