Pro Kabaddi League 2021-22: Dabang Delhi derailed, Jaipur Pink Panthers leap up the leaderboard
Jaipur Pink Panthers and UP Yoddha were the biggest gainers in the past week of Pro Kabaddi League 2021-22.
It was a matter of when rather than if. Match after match, Dabang Delhi had been able to keep teams at bay primarily because star raider Naveen Kumar would bail them out of the slightest of trouble. But the 21-year-old, nicknamed ‘Naveen Express’, was bound to have a quiet day, and that’s all it needed for the wheels to come off the Delhi campaign.
Surprisingly though, it was Jaipur Pink Panthers, who had been underwhelming up until Monday, 10 January, who inflicted the first defeat on the 2019 finalists. The Pink Panthers edged out Delhi 30-28 to snap their unbeaten streak. Not only that, they also ended Naveen’s run of 28 Super 10s in a row.
It was a busy night for statisticians, as Panthers’ captain Deepak Hooda crossed 900 raid points in the League. Meanwhile, Naveen, who had been kept relatively quiet at seven raid points, became the ninth player in PKL history to eclipse 600 raid points.
In the next match, against League toppers Bengaluru Bulls, Delhi’s worst nightmare came true. Naveen could not play due to injury and with their spearhead missing, the considerable chinks in Dabang Delhi’s armour were left exposed. Pawan Kumar Sehrawat ran riot against their jumpy, disorganized defence to score 27 raid points and guide his team to a 61-22 win. Bulls had won by the highest margin of the season, and the second-highest of the League (They had scored a 40-point win over UP Yoddha in season 5).
The win also saw Sehrawat taking over as the most successful raider of the season so far. He has a total of 151 raid points from 11 matches.
Delhi, meanwhile, have slipped to No 3 on the leaderboard. According to the latest standings, Bengaluru Bulls and Patna Pirates are tied on points (39). Though Bengaluru currently leads the standings due to a score difference of 51, Pirates have a match in hand.
The Telugu Titans, meanwhile, are still in search for their first win this season. With key players Siddharth Desai and Rohit Kumar missing out due to injury, Titans have lost eight of their 10 matches and are at the bottom of the League table with 12 points.
According to statistics released after the first 66 matches of season 8, the scores have been higher this time around. The average total points scored has risen to 68 per match, from 59 per match in season 7, while the average raid points have gone up from 31 in PKL 7 to 41 this season.
Panthers proved to be the unlikely bogey team for the season’s top teams. After yanking Delhi back to the ground they scored a morale-boosting 38-28 win over the Patna Pirates. Both, Delhi and Patna, had been at the top of the leaderboard when Jaipur pinned them down.
While Jaipur, who have struggled in the League since winning the inaugural edition in 2014, are rejoicing the return-to-form of captain Hooda, their resurgence this season has been led by all-rounder Sahul Kumar.
Playing his first season, Sahul has been called in to fill in, at different times in season 8, for left corner Sandeep Dhull and right corner Amit Hooda. Against Delhi, he picked up eight tackle points, including a Super Tackle on Naveen. He was Jaipur’s best defender against Patna too, picking up four points. A strong, aggressive defender, he is fifth on the list for most tackle points: 27 from nine matches.
The Pink Panthers, who settled for a 31-31 tie against the Tamil Thalaivas, have won three of their last four matches and have leaped to No 5 in the standings.
UP Yoddha also seem to have found their footing. With Surender Gill spearheading their challenge, the Yoddhas scored wins over the Telugu Titans (39-33) and Puneri Paltan (50-40). Gill, who was picked as the support raider for Pardeep Narwal, has been in incredible form this season and scored a career-high of 21 against Pune to cap off the week.
The encouraging sign for UP is not only that Pardeep is returning to form, but their captain Nitesh Kumar has really started taking charge in the defence. He picked up 14 tackle points this season as the Yoddhas have risen to No 4 on the leaderboard with 33 points from 11 matches.
Anup Kumar’s Puneri Paltan has struggled with consistency this season and is languishing at No 10 in the standings currently. But the coach is making sure that win or lose, the team maintains its grace.
On Thursday, Pune were on the cusp of a rampant win over U Mumba. Though his team had struck rare form this season, Kumar had a few words of advice for them. “Don't laugh on the field. It doesn't look good. Whether you catch someone or not, don't mock,” he told the Paltan as they huddled during the time-out.
“Hasna nahi unki haar pe, accha nahi lagta” — He said it in his own cool, collected way. No shouting, no posturing. Just like he had during his playing career, as captain of India and Pro Kabaddi teams, Kumar is not only helping the younger generation sharpen their skills and tactics but also maintain the spirit of the game.
Bengal Warriors bt Telugu Titans 28-27
UP Yoddha bt Puneri Paltan 50-40
Patna Pirates bt Bengaluru Bulls 38-31
Tamil Thalaivas tie with Jaipur Pink Panthers 31-31
U Mumba tie with Bengal Warriors 32-32
UP Yoddha bt Telugu Titans 39-33
Dabang Delhi bt Haryana Steelers 28-25
Bengaluru Bulls bt Gujarat Giants 46-37
Jaipur Pink Panthers bt Patna Pirates 38-28
Puneri Paltan bt U Mumba 42-23
Bengal Warriors bt Tamil Thalaivas 37-28
Bengaluru Bulls bt Dabang Delhi 61-22
Haryana Steelers tie with UP Yoddha 36-36
Gujarat Giants bt Telugu Titans 40-22
Patna Pirates bt U Mumba 43-23
Jaipur Pink Panthers bt Dabang Delhi 30-28
Tamil Thalaivas bt Haryana Steelers 45-26
Deepti Patwardhan is a freelance sports writer based in Mumbai.
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