Pardeep Narwal — shouldering Patna Pirates’ fortunes

Narwal would gladly trade the multitude of his Pro Kabaddi League records for a few more wins for his team that was ousted from the race for a playoff spot.

On the attack: Pardeep Narwal is Patna Pirates’ No. 1 raider.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

He is one of the most recognised names in Indian kabaddi and his performances through the last five seasons of the Pro Kabaddi League have only added to his reputation. But Patna Pirates’ Pardeep Narwal, at 22 the second youngest of the 12 captains in the league, would gladly trade the multitude of his records for a few more wins for his team that was ousted from the race for a playoff spot after going down in dramatic fashion against Dabang Delhi on Thursday.

Consider this: Pardeep is the only player in the PKL to cross 1100 points — the next best is Rahul Chaudhari at 996 — with 50 super raids and 57 Super 10s. He has completed 200 touch points this season and leads the raiders’ list. Add to it the three consecutive titles he has won for the team in the six seasons of PKL so far and his achievements far outshine anyone else.

Team game

“If I become happy at scoring individual points that will mean I am playing for individual success in a team game and no team can win with that attitude. If you want to play for yourself, you can do it anywhere, you can play any individual game, why are you in a team? I would rather score a few points less if that means the team would get a win instead,” said the youngster from Sonepat’s Rindhana village, a place he says plays little of any other sport.

His game face is quietly aggressive and supremely confident with steely eyes. Off court, Pardeep continues to be a shy kid who loves playing ludo online and doesn’t measure his thoughts before answering, his openness ensuring he doesn’t have to either.

“One player cannot win matches for the team all the time, everyone has to stand up and contribute. Yes there is more focus on me because I am the main raider and it does affect others’ performance. But that should not happen. Both me and the coach keep telling them that they have to play their natural game, play to their strengths. In practice, everyone is brilliant, I hardly manage to score points and even try and avoid them. They only have to do the same in competition,” he shrugs, indicating both his awareness of his star status and his inability to not let that affect his team-mates.

Top raider

That is perhaps the price for fame. Pardeep’s reputation as the league’s top raider precedes him, the sobriquet of ‘Dubki King’ reinforced every year. To his credit, he hasn’t let any of it affect his own performances. “I know that everyone thinks of me as the main raider for Patna and knows if they get me out, half the battle is won and the rest of the team will disintegrate. We have lost at least five-six games in the last one-two minutes because the defence becomes loose. I don’t think they take it easy but the focus is lost for some reason,” he admits.

Unlike others who get homesick after long periods on the road, Pardeep simply makes a quick dash back home in-between matches whenever possible. “No one else dares but I manage to convince the coach (Ram Meher Singh). We have been together for so many seasons now and have a good understanding back from our days in Air Force. When I feel like going home, even if for a few hours, I simply go,” the Income-Tax officer laughs.

As long as he keeps breaking those records, his team won’t mind.