Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) will witness its maiden champion come Saturday when Dabang Delhi square off against Bengal Warriors in the final. On a day of continued drama in the playoffs, Dabang Delhi were able to see off the spirited challenge posed by defending champions Bengaluru Bulls for a 44-38 win. In the second semi-final, Bengal Warriors were required to defend a raid with 20 seconds left on the clock to beat 2015 champions U Mumba 37-35. The final between Dabang Delhi and Bengal Warriors will be played on 19 October.
Naveen Kumar was once again the star raider for Delhi with 15 points to his name to steer his Super 10s tally to 21 this season.
Naveen Kumar was once again the star raider for Delhi with 15 points to his name to steer his Super 10s tally to 21 this season " 20 of them in a row. Coach Krishan Hooda was all praise for his star raider in the post-match interaction.
"I want to thank the team, the franchise and the captain for their hard work. Naveen has come out as a star and he has a great future ahead of him " be it with a franchise or the national team. Pawan and Naveen are stars for the game ahead. I trust both of them to do well. Naveen has been breaking records with zero fuss; he's got 21 Super 10s now. He's 'Naveen Express' and there is no stopping him. There's been plenty of support for him and we're all grateful," said Hooda.
Much like the first Eliminator, Bengaluru started slowly and gave the opposition time and space to build over them. Only this time, Delhi were more convincing and needed just three minutes to get their first all out in. This gave Delhi a 9-3 lead.
Pawan Sehrawat, star of Bengaluru's comeback win over UP Yoddha, was once again head and shoulders above his teammates. However, he rued that this time he didn't get the desired support to stage another win. "The team did not fight and I don't think we gave a fight. Super Tackles can't win you matches. I keep repeating that I'm not playing alone and we're all playing as a unit. Today I think I played alone and there was no support. Even if the team had pitched in with 10 percent or in the final four minutes, we could have done better. But then again, the opposition is also good and they finished top in the league stage," said Sehrawat in the post-match conversation.
"It felt like the team had their morale down and that we weren't playing a semi-final match. There was no teamwork. Rohit Kumar came back to play despite the injury and pain, if only the rest had noticed how much he was putting himself through to play for the team. The team can see for themselves that we've been All Out twice and I don't need to tell them of the same, to push themselves. The team can also see that they lead by 10 points or so. The team effort, that I had been seeing with Bengaluru Bulls, was no there today," he added.
He picked up his 25th Super Raid alongside a bonus point to keep Bengaluru in the hunt at 7-11.
Sumit Singh's unsuccessful raid, to be tackled by Chandran Ranjit, resulted in the second All Out in favour of Delhi. This put Delhi 11 points ahead at 21-10 and it was yet another mountain to climb for the Bulls.
Sehrawat collected personal milestones of 350 points this season and 700 overall in PKL history but it was him against Delhi by the look of things.
Worryingly so for Dabang Delhi, captain Joginder Narwal limped twice in the first half and needed treatment to his lower back. But he denied it was anything serious or enough to keep him out of the final. "Injuries and pain are part of the sport. Our sport is such that injuries are common. The physio looked at me and I always give my 100 percent irrespective of anything. We have time to get it checked by the physio to see if it is serious," said the Delhi captain. "He did play on in the match, he wasn't stretchered off so its nothing serious. He played the full 40 minutes and did a very good job. There's no problem, he's fine and ready to go on and play the final," interjected coach Hooda.
Sehrawat worried about his poor success rate in the Eliminator as he converted just 44 percent of his raids into points. On Wednesday, he was better at 60 percent and led the comeback. With clock winding down, he brought the game to six points but Bengaluru were incapable of reducing the deficit further.
With four minutes to full time, Naveen inflicted a third All Out and that was all but curtains for Bengaluru. Euphoric scenes after Sumit Singh's unsuccessful raid courtesy Ravinder Pahal saw Joginder kiss his teammate on the cheek. With Mahender Singh getting out, Delhi took a 41-32 lead. Ranjit added to Bengaluru's misery with another two-point raid and soon enough, Delhi had one hand on the trophy.
In an all-round show by the Bengal Warriors, which witnessed Sukesh Hegde pick eight raid points and found support from Rinku Narwal's four tackle points, they were pushed to the final few seconds for the win.
With 20 seconds left on the clock, Arjun Deshwal was handed the nerve-wracking responsibility of going for the raid. The score: 36-35 in favour of Warriors. A one-point raid and the game goes into extra time. Anything better and U Mumba win. The 20-year-old started smoothly and with patience, weighing up his options and moved from the left corner to right swiftly. However, the pressure was far too much for him to handle and he was wrestled to the ground by Baldev Singh. The team jumped in to offer complete support. Narwal, meanwhile, went down in pain but the celebrations continued around him.
There was little to choose between the two teams at the start with it taking 12 minutes before Warriors could take a decent two-point lead. An unsuccessful raid by Abhishek Singh resulted in the first All Out of the game as Warriors took a 14-10 lead. Good work by their raiders helped them build on that advantage to go into the break at 18-12.
U Mumba started the second half the better side with Warriors looking cagey and careful in their approach. Things, however, remained even for the most part until a four-point Super Raid by Hegde sent Fazel Atrachali, Surinder Singh, Ajinkya Kapre and Young Chang Ko off the mat. Out of absolute nowhere, Bengal were now nine points clear, with scoreline reading 25-16, and 14 minutes left on the clock.
Jeeva Kumar's successful tackle on Abhishek sent the crowd into a tizzy and Bengal had their second All Out of the night. The lead now looked a solid 10 points (30-20) with ten minutes to go. In kabaddi, that is plenty of time to stage a comeback and that is precisely what U Mumba did.
Missed raids and technical mistakes allowed U Mumba to collect four straight points without any response. Kapre's four-point Super Raid with five minutes to game made the game very even. The scoreline now read 33-29. Seconds later, Sourabh Patil's raid attempt was foiled by Surinder Singh and U Mumba had their first All Out of the night to reduce the deficit by another two points.
Abhishek's successful raid followed by Nabibaksh's missed raid brought the score to even pegging at 35-35 with just two minutes to go. Abhishek, however, was unable to repeat his heroics and big scoring games to be tackled by Jeeva Kumar. This gave Bengal a one point lead and soon enough, they were rejoicing a successful foray into the final.