U Mumba and Patna Pirates set up summit clash

Patna Pirates will meet defending champion U Mumba in the final of the Pro Kabaddi League after thrashing Puneri Paltan 40-21 in the semi-finals. U Mumba crushed Bengal Warriors 41-29 to complete a hat-trick of reaching the final.

Patna Pirates foils the raid by Ajay Thakur of Puneri Paltan in the semi-final of the Pro Kabaddi League in New Delhi.   -  Sandeep Saxena

Patna Pirates was third time lucky, thrashing Puneri Paltan 40-21 in the semi-finals and reaching the title clash of the third edition of the Pro Kabaddi League here on Friday. Its reward would be a face-off against defending champion U Mumba, who crushed Bengal Warriors 41-29 to complete its own hat-trick – this one of reaching the final in every edition so far.

While the league matches of the tournament in Delhi were played at the Thyagaraj Stadium, the knockouts were moved out to the much bigger Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium and the shift reflected in the half-filled stadium. The crowd was vociferous but it isn't easy to fill a 15,000 capacity stadium. Nevertheless, the action in the middle was engrossing.

Pune had to start on a positive note but it never took off. Patna, led by Manpreet Singh, established dominance early on and never slipped. The skipper marshalled his forces brilliantly, keeping an eye on every aspect of his team. He promoted Pardeep Narwal for most of the raids despite the latter being ineffective in the previous games and the youngster repaid the confidence with 11 points, including six at one go to effect an astonishing all-out.

The score was 11-3 then and Patna kept pushing hard. “That raid broke Pune's back and they never recovered from it. Such performance from youngsters make you proud as a captain,” Manpreet admitted after the game.

Both the league games between the two sides had ended in ties, making this a winner-takes-all face-off. Patna was the better side in every aspect with more points in raids, defence and all-outs. Sandeep Narwal has a penchant for going for individual tackles and though he stuck to his game, Manpreet kept talking him all through to make sure there were no lapses in defence.

In contrast, Pune was a dis-jointed team. Its two most-experienced players – Manjeet Chillar and Ajay Thakur – were ineffective in raids and with them out, the defence also suffered as Patna kept targeting the duo with success.

Pune targetted the duo Deepak Nivas Hooda tried to bring some respite to the team and a regrouped side fought back with better planning in the second half, to make sure at least one of the two leaders was on court till the end, but it was too little, too late.

U Mumba make it a hat-trick of finals

In the other semi-final, U Mumba did a similar turn against first-timer Bengal. The most consistent team in PKL reiterated its credentials with an all-round performance.

With Rishank Devadiga leading the raiders even as captain Anup Kumar fell back to marshal his troops, the defending champion kept the pressure all through. The team with four world-class raiders – Rishank, Anup, Rakesh Kumar and Shabeer Bapu Sharfuddin – kept the opposition defence on its toes and there was little Bengal captain Nilesh Shinde could do.

Nitin Tomar played a lone hand for Bengal with eight raid points but for the major part, the Bengal side was busy trying to salvage points in the defence. That was never going to stop Mumba from reaching its third final, though.



Result (Semi-finals)

Patna Pirates 40 (Pardeep Narwal 10, Rohit Kumar 7, Sandeep Narwal 5) beat Puneri Paltan 21 (Deepak Nivas hooda 6, Manjeet Chillar 5); U Mumba 41 (Rishank Devadiga 13, Anup Kumar 6, Mohit Chillar 6) beat Bengal Warriors 29 (Nitin Tomar 8, Umesh Mhatre 6, Vineet Sharma 6).