The audience at the DOME, NSCI stadium in Mumbai had just witnessed an intriguing thriller of a match where the Puneri Paltan got the better of UP Yoddha in the first eliminator of the day.
They were expecting no less of a match when defending champions Patna Pirates took on newcomers Haryana Steelers in the 2nd eliminator.
What happened in the next 40 minutes of play will go down in the history of Pro Kabaddi as the most dominant performance by a single player in a match.
In a game that was pitted to be between the leagues's best raider and defender, it was the raider who stood tall as the final scoreline read 69-30 in favour of Patna Pirates, whose captain Pardeep Narwal scored a massive 34 points to break all existing records.
Such is the calibre of this 20-year-old that this wasn't something unexpected.
Earlier in the league matches, Pardeep breached the 20-point barrier in a single match not once but twice this season and held the record for most points scored by a single player in one match.
However, in the last couple of weeks, Pardeep's record was broken twice as UP Yoddha's Rishank Devadiga scored 28 points and just a few days later Bengaluru Bulls captain Rohit Kumar breached the 30-point mark to score a record 32 points.
The Patna Pirates coach Ram Mehar Singh revealed, "Pardeep was pretty flustered that his record was broken and wanted to urgently reclaim it."
Such is his personal conviction that Pardeep managed to surpass the record so quickly and ensure his team overcame the Haryana Steelers' challenge in the play-offs.
Players like Pardeep who score points at will can be a demoralising sight for defenders, the unsung heroes of a sport that tends to focus more on such flamboyant raiders.
Well-laid out plans go to shreds while facing such talents like Pardeep. This is something his teammate and main defender of Patna Pirates Vishal Mane agrees, especially after being in the receiving end in previous editions.
"I've played against him as well in the past. He attracts a defender towards him. He will always give you an angle where you can tackle him, but once you jump in, he somehow escapes. Of course he also scores with hand touches and with his feet. but that ability to escape is his special talent and nobody has come to terms with it," Mane explained in an interview with Firstpost.
Pardeep stood tall among his peers as he became the first player to breach the 200-point mark in a single season.
Ahead of the eliminators, he was at 274 points, 55 clear off the second placed Rohit Kumar. When asked about his target for the season, Narwal said his aim was to breach the 300-point mark by the end of the season.
It just took him one game to break the 300-point barrier and perch himself further higher with 308 points now.
The first-time captain's cavalier attitude has rubbed off on his team who believe that on it will be a hat-trick of titles for the Patna Pirates.
In the post-match press conference, a glimpse of Pardeep's famed devil-may-care nonchalance came to the fore when asked about how he strategises his raids depending on the calibre of the defender in front.
He said, "I don't see who the raider is. My job is to go, score points and return. I do that irrespective of who the opposing defenders are."
Patna Pirates were quick to interject and add that this is the main reason for both the wins and losses of the defending champions in this edition. This kind of bravado when coupled with performances such as these makes Pardeep's statement seem less arrogant and more of self-confident.
The coach attributes this level of consistency to Pardeep's hunger to score points both for the team and him irrespective of the team's standing in the table or the opponent or the scoreline.
"He just wants to go with a swagger, score a point or two with every raid and come back. He doesn't take any kind of pressure regarding the points or opponent and the team is confident that when Pardeep is on song, no team is tough to beat and no deficit is tough to overcome," said Ram Mehar Singh exuding praise over his star player and captain.
When the opponent team's coaches and players are gobsmacked by Pardeep's performance and don't mince words in praising his exceptional abilities, it gives even more proof about the legacy the man from Haryana is creating in the world of Kabaddi.
If anything can surmise the reason behind the rise and rise of the 20-year-old 'Dubki' king Pardeep Narwal in the field of kabaddi, it is his revelation about his thought process before raids.
In an earlier interview with Firstpost, Pardeep had said, "I don't strategise. I don't think beforehand about the kind of raids I should do. I walk on to the mat, see the defenders and decide what I should do."
If Pardeep knew Latin, he might have said something more succinct, Vene, Vidi, Vici — I came, I saw and I conquered.
Updated Date: Oct 24, 2017 12:54 PM