Bengal Warriors beats Dabang Delhi, lifts maiden Pro Kabaddi title

Maninder Singh's absence could not dent a resolute Bengal Warriors side, as it lifted its first Pro Kabaddi title, beating Dabang Delhi in the summit clash.

Bengal Warriors won its first ever Pro Kabaddi League title, beating Dabang Delhi 39-34 on Saturday.   -  Pro Kabaddi League

There's a famous picture clicked after Iran's win over India at the 2018 Asian Games of a kabaddi player pumping the air in joy. He would go on to make his maiden Pro Kabaddi League stint as Bengal Warriors splurged INR 77.75 lakh to rope him in, with talk of his lethal all-around abilities preceding his arrival.

It was a deja vu of sorts on Saturday as we saw the very same fist pump again. The Iranian in question, Mohammed Esmaeil Nabibakhsh, shone with 10 crucial points as he led the Warriors to its first Pro Kabaddi title after a 39-34 hammering of Dabang Delhi at the EKA Arena.

PKL 2019 Final Bengal Warriors 39-34 Dabang Delhi, as it happened

 

Incidentally, it was Dabang Delhi that got off to a flyer. Naveen Kumar bagged quick points early on and some resolute defending saw Bengal Warriors reduced to three men in less than five minutes. It was only a matter of time before the All Out and the last man on the mat, Ravindra Ramesh Kumawat jumped into the lobby, as Dabang Delhi soared to an 11-3 lead.

One can't be blamed for thinking this game was all about the 19-year-old raiding sensation, Naveen. If one did at the beginning of this game, they were proved wrong almost immediately, for what ensued was an Iranian masterclass. Warriors' star raider Maninder Singh was forced to miss the game owing to an injury, but Nabibakhsh ensured he got the job done.

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Mohammed Nabibakhsh was all about brute force in the final of the Pro Kabaddi League. He went on to eliminate player after player from the Delhi camp, helping effect three All-Outs, while also standing in for injured skipper Maninder Singh.   -  Vijay Soneji

He went on an absolute riot, first sending Naveen and Chandran Ranjith to the bench in quick succession. He toyed with the Delhi defence and pocketed six points to bring his side back into the game. He wrestled past the combination tackle of Ravinder Pahal and Anil with Herculean strength to sneak to the midline and effect a stunning All-Out and with it, began his side's comeback.

The Warriors scored 11 points in the last 10 minutes before the first half whistle stopped the clock, the scores level at 17 apiece. Nabibakhsh, though, was far from done.

The shift in momentum was drastic and the Dabang Delhi defence simply froze - it was almost like the team had switched off. The seasoned defensive duo of Ravinder Pahal and skipper Joginder endured an abysmal run as the duo managed just a solitary point from 10 tackles. Joginder, who suffered a back spasm ahead of the game, was in visible discomfort and should have been taken off, for he was hardly his usual powerful self.

Naveen did keep the scoreboard ticking and brought up an impressive Super 10, his 21st on the trot, but it just wasn't enough. Dabang Delhi's famed defence had let him down.  There was something almost heartbreaking about watching the 19-year-old walk on for that last raid only to see the Bengal Warriors camp erupt in celebration right before him. Like singer-composer Amit Trivedi sang in the opening ceremony, this will be "emotional atyachar" for Dabang Delhi, but for Bengal Warriors, it's legacy has just begun.