(By Rahul Pandey)
After over 2 months of gravity defying raids, unshackable defending and desi tadka of Indian sporting action, the mouth watering final of the Pro-Kabaddi league is upon us. Throughout the group stages, two names remained on top, Gujarat Fortunegiants and Patna Pirates. The two have proved out to be worthy contenders for the top spot. And as has been the case in most of the games this season, to predict a winner between these two, would mean a futile exercise. But still for the sake of customaries, let’s just look at five key factors to watch out for in the final.
1. Recapitulation vs Momentum
It surely isn’t the first time that these two would clash. And on both the previous occasions, Gujarat Fortunegiants have proved out to be a bit too much for the two time champions Patna Pirates. Although Patna have been an attacking prowess but all that fear that they had managed to grip against champion sides like U Mumba and Telugu Titans was put to bed by an amateur team with classy professionals. Gujarat cemented their place in the summit clash by playing just one play-off game against Bengal warriors. Now this is where the all important momentum comes in to play. Patna Pirates have done all the sweat work by getting through 3 tough play-offs for a place in the final. And boy haven’t they done it in style. 69-30 against Haryana Steelers, 42-32 against Puneri Paltan and a nail bitting 47-44 against Bengal Warriors have made the Pirates from Patna a more complete side and this form that they have gained will surely give them an upper edge.
2. Gujarat Fortunegiants’ defence: The Iranian wall
The major reason why Gujarat have been able to contain opposition teams, including Patna Pirates, is because of their defence, which really counts for the two that make the Iranian wall. Fazal Atrachali and Abozar Mighani have anchored a nearly insurmountable defence. The total tackle points they have collected throughout the campaign is second only to Pune. No star raider be it, Rahul Chaudhary, Anup Kumar or the Patna Pirates skipper Pardeep Narwal, has been able to break through the wall. If Patna are to make any strong amendments to win the tournament for a third consecutive time, then they must come up with a master strategy to break through the Iranian wall.
3. Patna Pirates: An attacking prowess
It is true that Gujarat has a brilliant defence, but if one team can break through, it has to be Patna Pirates. In 2 of their last 3 games, their raiders have architected a second half comeback, including the 69-30 slaughter of Haryana Steelers. Pardeep Narwal alongside Monu Goyat has turned out to be too slippery for the defenders. Their raids have made all-out points come easy. So for Gujarat, things would depend a lot on how they respond to these raids. In most cases the defenders have tried to come forward and grapple the Patna raiders, but in this case, Gujarat will need to keep their patience while defending, otherwise it might turn out to be a long night for them.
4. The Unsung Battle
It often happens in big games, that the people are so consumed by the action on one side of the field that they almost forget, it’s a game of two halves. Same goes by here. While everyone will be focused on Patna’s attack vs Gujarat’s defence, the real battle would be fought between the vice-versa’s. For Patna, defence did look a big problem in group stages, but in the business end of the league, they have looked much more organized at the back. Jaideep Singh’s ankle hold from the right and Vishal Mane’s grapple from the left have turned out to be a sweet dose for their opposition. As for Gujarat their previous all round performance against Bengal Warriors did hand them a comprehensive victory but it won’t count at all unless they construct fast paced raids, instead of complete 30- second visits to the Patna half, in order to savour time, which obviously plays a key role.
5. Pardeep Narwal: The game decider
All the so called analysis might be shrugged down and when it does it might broil down to one man, Pardeep Narwal. Their are no words to define what he has done for his team this season. The ‘Dupki’ king has a total of over 350 raid points, the highest by any player in one season, against Haryana Steelers in a must win eliminator he got 34 raid points, the highest by any player in one game, which included an 8 point raid, the highest by any player in a single Pro kabaddi game. Records and praises have tumbled in for the Patna Pirates skipper who has literally cracked through the defenses and for sure would be eyeing the ultimate prize in order to make this a dream season. Although Gujarat were able to contain him well in the group stages but things have changed a lot since then. So apart from making a separate plan for him, a bit of prayer is what Gujarat require in order to save themselves from the worst case scenario.