Pardeep Narwal, once the undisputed king of the mat, has been a pale shadow of himself in the eighth season of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL 8).
The 25-year-old made history at the player auctions last year when UP Yoddha paid a bank-breaking fee of Rs 1.65 crore to make him the league’s most expensive player.
For the uninitiated, the dubki is an escape manoeuvre trademarked by Pardeep. It commands rubber-band-like elasticity as the raider ducks below a chain of defenders and then launches himself back to his feet. This was a move Pardeep made his own, earning him the moniker – the Dubki King . However, his trademark move has just not worked in PKL-8.
Last season, Pardeep singlehandedly carried the fortunes of the struggling Patna Pirates. He scored a staggering 304 points, but the Pirates still failed to reach the play-offs and finished eighth. The gargantuan amount at the auction was a just reward for his toils.
Pardeep, however, has crumbled under the weight of expectations. He was expected to carry UP Yoddha’s raiding department, but he has done little to help his team’s cause. Although he did become the first player to score 1200 points in the PKL’s history earlier in the season, he has managed only 104 points from 211 raids in 15 matches. In comparison, Surender Gill, who is playing just his second season, has amassed 129 points from 14 matches and has made two raids lesser than Pardeep.
Each game of kabaddi is played for 40 minutes and Pardeep has spent an average of 16 minutes on the bench per match this season, with the team trusting others ahead of its marquee signing.
The imperious raider seems to have lost his ability to execute the running hand touch, which was one of the most lethal weapons in his arsenal. He was notorious with the dubki , which has been neutralised this season and he has lacked any real pace or venom on the mat.
Jasveer Singh, UP Yoddha’s coach, had last month attributed Pardeep’s absence from the team to an ankle injury. There were games where he was seen sporting some taping on his knee. Off late, the taping has disappeared, but his form has not returned.
After a morale-denting loss to Bengaluru Bulls on Tuesday, Jasveer noted that Pardeep needed to lose some weight to be more effective on the mat. The 'Record Breaker' had managed just four points from 12 raids and was tackled four times against the Bulls.
“Pardeep will regain his speed if he drops two kgs. He is technically strong and has everything else, but his speed levels have reduced. He has lost 1.5 kgs over the last five days and if he loses another two kgs then I am confident that he will get his speed and become fast again,” Jasveer told Sportstar .
UP Yoddha is smarting from a hat-trick of losses and is placed sixth on the table with the playoffs fast approaching. The team could use a few wins and Pardeep a few successful dubkis.