Thousands of Telugu Titans fans gathered to watch their team record their second win in the fifth season of Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), as well as to witness their hero Rahul Chaudhari become the first player in the league to reach 500 points. Unfortunately for them, neither of them transpired.
The Telugu Titans, who added the class of Rakesh Kumar, were expected to dominate defending champions Patna Pirates — a side weakened by the departure of several players before the auctions — especially on home turf.
But as things panned out, they were flattened by one individual: Pardeep Narwal, the Most Valuable Player of the previous season. Narwal was on guard to put up another exhibition of his tricks and moves that no defender till date has had a measure of.
In the first half it was a Narwal vs Chaudhari contest. As both defences struggled to conjure up many points, it was the duo who were leading the points tally for their respective teams. It was only at the end of that first half that Chaudhari fell behind in the race. He was twice tackled by just two Patna Pirates defenders on court, and that dented his confidence.
On the other hand, Narwal went from strength to strength and produced that one moment that stamped its class on the match. With a full quota of the Titans' defenders on court, he skipped three challenges — first through a jump and then with his trademark dupki, to raid away three points. A one-point deficit turned into a two-point lead, but the shift in momentum meant there was no way back for the Titans.
Speaking after the game, Pirates' Vishal Mane hailed Narwal's performance and didn't have to think twice before rating him higher than the record-breaking Chaudhari.
“Of course I feel Pardeep (Narwal) is a better player than Rahul (Chaudhari) because he has a lot of tricks up his sleeve. He plays in a unique way. Rahul plays with a little pressure while Pardeep uses his mind. He targets the opposition's weakness and attacks in those areas,” Mane explained.
Chaudhari needed just eight points to complete 500 points in PKL, but he was left stranded on 499. There was no such problems for Narwal, who responded to every "Rahul! Rahul!" chant from the crowd with a point of his own.
The super raid that left the Titans in tatters, was a cut above all the kabaddi that was played in the rest of the game. It left veteran Rakesh down on the mat with sheer disbelief on his face.
It wasn't the first time that Narwal had unleashed the dupki, but like every other time, nobody saw it coming.
“We always attempted to put pressure especially on Rahul Chaudhari and we succeeded. Nobody has come to terms with the timing of Pardeep’s dupki. Moreover, he varies his strategies and moves according to the opponents and the defenders that are playing in the cover positions,” Mane added, further stressing on why he rated Narwal ahead of Chaudhari.
The Pirates' coach Ram Mehar Singh though preferred not to choose between the raiders, pointing to the difference in their styles of play.
“You can’t say one is better than the other. Rahul has a different set of skills and Pardeep’s game is different from his. The both of them are in great form and they’re doing their best. When the league reaches the halfway mark, we’ll know who is a better player.” Singh explained.
Speaking about the additions that Narwal has made to his game, the coach revealed how the young raider has shown eagerness in that aspect.
“Yes, he is one of the star players of the league. Everyone always plans against Pardeep’s dupki, they focus a lot on it. But we worked on other aspects too. We also mostly focused on Rahul since he is Telugu's biggest player,” he added.
My performance was 'zero'
As Narwal excelled, Chaudhari admitted he had a game to forget while taking full responsibility for the loss.
"My performance today was zero, my team played really well. We lost the match because of me. Whenever my team needed me, I was tackled by Patna. I couldn’t help my team tonight,” Chaudhari said.
“Patna’s defense wasn’t all that great, I don’t know what happened to me tonight, I just couldn’t get past the center line. They were roughing me up but I don’t know how I got tackled. They were tracking every movement of mine. I have never been tackled so many times in a match. I don’t know if it’s bad luck or what,” he explained.
The Titans skipper though hailed his defence for keeping tabs on Narwal for most of the game and felt the super raid was the turning point.
“My team put in a splendid performance in the first half, I was playing well too. In the second half, I was tackled every single time because of which we lost. My team did well to control Pardeep initially but in the end, his super raid damaged us.” the 24-year-old raider suggested.
Chaudhari and the Titans will get a chance to redeem themselves soon as they take on Bengaluru Bulls on Sunday. As far as the revenge for Saturday's loss is concerned, the Titans will have a chance to do so when the two teams meet again on Wednesday at the same venue.
Updated Date: Jul 30, 2017 15:57 PM