In sports, there are very few things that excite you more than a solid underdog story. The performance of Bengal Warriors in Pro Kabaddi League Season 5 has been inspirational, especially considering the team's last-place finish in season 4. They are now on the cusp of making their maiden Pro Kabaddi final when they take on Patna Pirates in the second qualifier in Chennai.
Barring an exceptional third edition where a bevy of injuries forced them to settle for a third-place finish, the Warriors have always been a part of the bottom half of the table.
They could manage to win only three of their 14 matches last season and it was with this form that the Warriors made their way into the ongoing 12-week long caravan style tournament.
On paper, the Warriors might not be the strongest squad. They lack heavyweights and 'fancy' stars to pull in the crowds.
However, their run so far exemplifies the fact that a strong team-effort compensates for the absence of 'stars'.
The Warriors performed throughout the season as a well-oiled machine that worked like clockwork.
Under a new coach, a new captain and a completely revamped side, the Warriors worked that extra mile by starting their training camps earlier than the other teams.
Even if the others didn't, the Warriors definitely fancied their chances of reaching the play-off stage.
It seems that the underdogs tag has worked in their favour, as they have flown under the radar to reach this far in the tournament.
This progress is a testimony to their hard work as they got to their drawing board and chalked out a clear strategy right from the time of auctions.
While the team retained the services of Korean defender Jang Kun Lee, the other raiders Deepak Narwal and Maninder Singh have been revelations for the Warriors.
Maninder, who shone in the first season had to stay away from the limelight for the next three editions due to personal reasons, continued from where he left off to become the most effective raider for the Warriors this year with 173 points.
One of the smartest moves by the Warriors was to buy Surjeet Singh and make him the captain of a relatively young and inexperienced side.
Surjeet, one of the best defenders in the country, had to, a lot of times, double up as an all-rounder due to lack of resources. However, he has led from the front to marshall his troops effectively and along with his partner-in-crime, Ran Singh, has been the defence mainstay for the Warriors.
However, it has not been all to easy for the Warriors as they have been made to work hard for their results but that in turn showcases their never give-up attitude. Out of the 11 matches won by the Kolkata-based outfit this season, they have not won a single match with a huge margin, barring a match against UP Yoddha. They have also been involved in the most number of ties this season
Their ability to take the match till till the end and coming out triumphant has held them in good stead so far in this tournament.
Surjeet in an earlier interview with Firstpost had said, "We want to be the first Bengal Warriors team to reach the final of the tournament."
Well, it's not going to be easy as they will be up against two-time title winners and defending champions Patna Pirates.
The Pirates have been in imperious form lately, especially in the play-off stages where they decimated Haryana Steelers in the first eliminator and conjured a come-from-behind win over Puneri Paltan in the second.
Unlike the Warriors, the Pirates who are one step away from making it to their third final, have one of the biggest names in Kabaddi today—Pardeep Narwal.
Pardeep who now holds all the raid records possible in Pro Kabaddi has been at his ominous best this season. With 327 points, he is head and shoulders above the other raiders and is showing no signs of slowing down.
With Monu Goyat as the second raider, it is no surprise that in the list of teams to have scored the most number of points, Pirates lead with 948.
However, it is the defence which has been the Achilles heel for the Pirates. Not only do they lead in the number of points scored by a team, they also top the list of most points conceded.
Having conceded 839 points over 24 matches, Pirates' biggest worry would be their shaky defence. In contrast, the Warriors' defence is their strong point as they have conceded just 710 points and are tenth on the list.
As Pirates' coach Ram Mehar Singh pointed out, "If the defence works at least 70 percent, there is no one who can beat our team. Unfortunately for us, the defence hardly manages 40-50 percent and whenever we have lost in this season, it has been because of our defence."
Sharing 505 points between them, the combination of Narwal and Monu has always pulled Pirates out of sticky situations, but it will be a different setting against the Warriors.
Though the Pirates have won six of their eight encounters against Warriors over the past four seasons, things are different this time around.
In season 5, they have played each other thrice and the Pirates were held to a draw in their encounters in Mumbai and Ranchi. In the other match at Kolkata, the Warriors won 41-38.
The other important observation in all these matches has been the performance of Pardeep. Though he was the best Pirates raider in all these encounters, the Warriors defence ensured that the usual flamboyance of Pardeep was cut down considerably and allowed him to score a meagre seven points in the Mumbai game, 13 at Ranchi and 11 at Kolkata.
Having successfully applied brakes to the Pardeep juggernaut, the Warriors would favour themselves as the team that would face Gujarat Fortunegiants in the final on 28 October.
However, writing Pardeep off would be a disastrous decision and if even one of the two Patna raiders is on song and the defence provides ample support, the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium might get to witness the Pirates taking on the Fortunegiants on Saturday.
Considering the exchange of verbal volleys between the coaches of Pirates and Fortunegiants, a final between these two teams would be electrifying.
But for now, all eyes will be on Thursday's clash as an unstoppable force will meet an immovable object when the league's best raiding side takes on a team with one of the best defensive units.
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Updated Date: Oct 26, 2017 17:32:03 IST