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Pro Kabaddi Season 7 Final Preview: Dabang Delhi vs Bengal Warriors

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An exhilarating, three-month long Season 7 of Pro Kabaddi has reached its culmination with Dabang Delhi K.C. set to battle Bengal Warriors for the coveted title at the EKA Arena by TransStadia in Ahmedabad on Saturday October 19th, 2019. Judging by the season’s performances, both table toppers and maiden finalists have deserved the right to play in the final, after having finished the league stages.

Interestingly, this will be the first time both Delhi and Bengal will play in the final which is a testimony to how tough and closely fought the current season of VIVO PKL has been. Pre-season favourites Tamil Thalaivas and three-time champions Patna Pirates struggled to impress while teams like UP Yoddha, with no real superstars in their ranks, dominated the league stages by utilising young players identified through the Future Kabaddi Heroes (FKH) programme.

The unheralded Heroes

While the likes of Delhi’s Naveen Kumar and Bengal’s Maninder Singh have walked away with the plaudits, the teams’ success on the mat have come largely due to their cohesion. Delhi’s semi-final match against Bengaluru Bulls was an example of how backup raiders Chandran Ranjit and Vijay are vital cogs in the Dabang unit, contributing in both tackles and raids. Similarly in defence, while Ravinder Pahal and Joginder Narwal grabbed the limelight, Vishal Mane has gone about doing his work quietly as a cover defender. The seasoned defender now has the opportunity to become the first player in vivo Pro Kabaddi history to win the title with three different teams (having already won with U Mumba and Patna Pirates).

Bengal Warriors also have a fair share of unsung heroes. Sukesh Hegde, who will be playing his 100th VIVO PKL match, has thrown down the gauntlet to his doubters who called him a ‘spent force’ with vital raid points whenever his team needed them. K Prapanjan has also had a breakout season for the Warriors as a raider. Both players will be keen to avoid a defeat having suffered a heartbreak while playing for Gujarat FortuneGiants in earlier seasons.

Stopping the unstoppable

Both Dabang Delhi and Bengal Warriors have a wealth of talent as far as raiders go which would mean that the match will come down to which set of defenders play better. In Rinku Narwal and Baldev Singh, the Warriors have a strong corner duo, who have impressed with tackle points this season. Both are relatively inexperienced compared to Delhi’s defensive stalwarts Joginder Narwal, Ravinder Pahal and Vishal Mane. However, the inexperienced duo will be looking to show that they are no easy pushovers by trying to make a statement against an in-form Naveen Kumar who will be targeting his 21st consecutive Super 10. Both the teams are also at the top two in terms of most all-outs inflicted and least all-outs conceded this season (net All-Out of +16 for both teams).

Maninder Singh’s availability still remains undecided but Bengal Warriors showed that against a talented U Mumba side in the semi-finals that they can produce the goods even without their star raider. In fact, when the teams first met this season, it was Prapanjan who scored a Super 10 after Maninder was substituted for a poor first-half showing.

Both coaches will have the problem of plenty with the variety of Kabaddi players available to pick from, fans and viewers can expect a cracker of a grand finale on Saturday. One thing is for sure – VIVO Pro Kabaddi will have a new champion at the end of the match.

Bengal Warriors are undefeated against Dabang Delhi K.C. this season, tying 30-30 in Match 46 before defeating the team from the capital 42-33 in Match 115 at Panchkula.

Dabang Delhi K.C.

Season record (W-L-T): 16-4-3

Dabang Delhi K.C.’s magical run in Season 7 continued in the first Semi-final where they defeated reigning champions Bengaluru Bulls by a comfortable 44-38 scoreline. The league-table toppers were in the lead throughout the match and never let go of the steering wheel, which gave Bengaluru Bulls no chance to come back. Their raiders scored five less points than Bengaluru Bulls in that match but a massive 15 tackle point performance from the defence is what got them home eventually. They also did not concede a single All Out in the match. If the team can pull off a similar performance in the final, they could well claim their first vivo Pro Kabaddi crown.

Best Raider – Naveen Kumar

Dabang Delhi K.C.’s talisman Naveen Kumar continued his supreme run of form and scored his 20th successive Super 10 in the Semi-final while once again emerging as the team’s leading raider. His 15 raid points proved vital to the team’s cause as the rest of the team scored just eight more overall.  The raider has a incredible average of 12.86 raid points per game and is 17 raid points shy of his first-ever 300 raid point campaign.

Naveen has found good support in Chandran Ranjit and Vijay, both of whom have managed to revive the raider quickly if he gets sent to the bench. Ranjit has registered his second-successive 100-raid point campaign with two Super 10s to his name while Vijay has contributed well on both sides of the mat with 45 raid points and 14 tackle points. The team also boast of the experienced Meraj Sheykh and young Neeraj Narwal in their bench strength, which makes their attack all the more potent.

Best Defender – Ravinder Pahal

Ravinder Pahal has been Dabang Delhi K.C.’s leading tackle point scorer in Season 7 with 62 tackle points to his name. This has already been the Corner’s most successful vivo Pro Kabaddi season and he continues to look menacing every time he takes the mat. Though he has just 3 High 5s this season, his consistent contributions as well as strong assists have made him a big threat for raiders.

The experienced Pahal has formed a good partnership with veterans Joginder Narwal and Vishal Mane as well as Anil Kumar, who was their most impressive defender in the Semi-final. Ranjit and Vijay, too, have been contributing in defence when the team needs them to step up. With no weak links in this department, it is no surprise that raiders have found the going tough against Dabang Delhi K.C. all season.

Bengal Warriors

Season record (W-L-T): 15-5-3

Bengal Warriors proved that they can be a force to be reckoned with even without their skipper Maninder Singh as they beat Tamil Thalaivas in their last league-stage match before winning 37-35 against U Mumba in the Semi-final. They managed to fight off a strong U Mumba comeback in the Semi-final and put in two late tackles to seal the result in their favour. If Maninder returns to their fold for the final, it could become very difficult to stop the Bengal Warriors juggernaut.

Best Raider – Maninder Singh

Skipper Maninder Singh has always been at the front and centre of the Bengal Warriors attack for most of the season before he got sidelined by injury in the latter part of the league stage. With 205 raid points from 20 matches played so far, Maninder is just two points shy of making this his most successful season yet. This is also the first season where the raider averages more than 10 raid points per game.

Sukesh Hegde, Mohammad Nabibakhsh and K. Prapanjan made up for the raider’s absence, though, in the Semi-final. Hegde put in a game-changing Super Raid while Prapanjan, who is in his third straight 100 plus raid point season, contributed 4 raid points. Nabibakhsh’s presence makes a big difference to the team as well since he is able to contribute on both sides of the mat, which lends the team a good balance.

Best Defender – Baldev Singh

Baldev Singh’s season was quite well summed up in the crunching tackle he made on Arjun Deshwal in the buzzer raid of the Semi-final to win his team the match. Strong, sharp and fearless, Baldev’s 5 Super Tackles and 6 High 5s have made him the only Bengal Warriors defender in the top 5 tackle point scorers of the season.

Baldev found able support throughout the campaign in his fellow Corner Rinku Narwal who is just two tackle points shy of Baldev at 62. Rinku’s strong tackles slow down raiders enough to allow the Bengal Warriors defence to stop him in his tracks. Jeeva Kumar (3 tackle points) also had a good Semi-final which means the Bengal Warriors defenders will come into the final high on confidence.