PKL notebook: Patna Pirates packs a punch

From Pardeep Narwal finally showing signs of form to Bengal Warriors’ miserable campaign and Patna Pirates advancing to the knockouts, here are the key talking points from the fortnight gone by.

Superb show: Sachin Tanwar has been Patna Pirates’ best-performing raider this season.   -  PKL

We head into the business end of the Pro Kabaddi League as the 12 teams battle it out for a shot at the playoffs. Three-time champion Patna Pirates became the first team to advance to the knockouts with four games to spare, while a nine-way combat is on for the five remaining spots. The top two teams will directly progress to the semifinals, while the next four teams will play in the eliminators and move to the last-four stage.From Pardeep Narwal finally showing signs of form to Bengal Warriors' miserable campaign, here are the key talking points from the fortnight gone by.

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There’s no stopping Patna Pirates

Patna Pirates, the PKL’s most successful team with three titles, became the first side to seal a play-off berth after a 17-point win over Puneri Paltan on February 10. Patna Pirates, led by coach Ram Mehar Singh, has won six games on the trot, in commanding fashion. While the team does not have any so-called superstars — it had released Pardeep Narwal at the player auctions — the combination of youngsters and seniors has worked wonders for the side.

While Monu Goyat was seen as the lead raider for the team, it has been young Sachin Tanwar who has seized the scoring duties. He has 137 points from 18 games and has received able support from Guman Singh and Prashanth Kumar Rai. The defence has been marshalled by Iran’s Mohammadreza Chiyaneh Shadloui. The eccentric left corner has been in stunning form and has six High-5s already — the second-most in the League. With impressive squad depth and a host of top-quality youngsters, Patna Pirates looks well-poised to clinch a record fourth title.

Finding his touch: Pardeep Narwal is finally showing some signs of form as he bagged two Super 10s in as many games.   -  PKL

 

Pardeep Narwal finally shows signs of form

UP Yoddha’s Pardeep Narwal has come good at a crucial juncture, with two match-winning Super 10s in as many games. Pardeep has had a poor campaign by his lofty standards — partly marred by an ankle injury. UP Yoddha coach Jasveer Singh had also pointed out that Pardeep had to lose close to 4 kgs, during the season, to regain his speed.

In a team that's coached by the iconic Anup Kumar and features established stars such as Nitin Tomar, Rahul Chaudhari and Vishal Bharadwaj, one youngster has come come along and stolen the limelight - Aslam Inamdar. The young raider hailing from Taklibhan in Maharashtra has made coaches and fans turn around and take notice of his aptitude for the game and stunning skill set. From braving a broken leg to dealing with a tough financial situation at home, Aslam has overcome adversities aplenty to pursue his dream of becoming a professional kabaddi player.

Aslam is the first guest in Sportstar's special series - the Future Kings of Kabaddi.

 

A fitter-looking Pardeep produced as many as three Super Raids in the win over Jaipur Pink Panthers on February 11 to retain his side’s chances of a playoff berth.

“Pardeep has been playing well over the last 2-3 games. As you can see, he has regained his speed as well as confidence,” Jasveer opined.

Pardeep, in tandem with the in-form Surender Gill, will aim to ride the momentum as his side bids for a maiden title.

Defending champion Bengal Warriors down and out

Bengal Warriors came into the season with one of the most balanced squads that featured many established names such as Maninder Singh, Mohammad Esmaeil Nabibakhsh, Abozar Mighani and Vishal Mane.

The reigning champion, aiming to become the first team since Patna Pirates to retain the title, endured a mid-season slump as it lost five and tied one of its last six matches.

The onus to bag raid points has been squarely thrust on captain Maninder, who has delivered with a staggering 237 points, but the lack of a secondary raider has cost the team dear.

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Iran’s Nabibakhsh, who orchestrated the side’s title win last year with a remarkable performance in the final, has had an average season and has failed to make an impact in raiding or defending. The defence has veteran names such as Abozar, Vishal and Ran Singh, but has managed just 145 tackles in 20 games (10th-best in the League).

Things just have not worked out for the Warriors as they’ve managed just seven wins so far and are placed 11th after 20 games. In all likelihood, the defending champion will play no part in the playoffs this time around.