Since its inception in 2014, the Pro Kabaddi league (PKL) has laid an astute foundation for the rural sport in the country. Over the years, as many as five different teams have emerged victorious in seven Pro Kabaddi final matches and not a single summit encounter has disappointed.
Brimming with action and drama, kabaddi has made some major headways in the last decade and PKL has played a key role in it. With that being said, here we look at what transpired in the Pro Kabaddi finals.
Season 7 Pro Kabaddi final 2019: Bengal Warriors vs Dabang Delhi K.C.
The seventh season of the Pro Kabaddi League had replaced the experimental caravan league format with the traditional double round-robin one, where each team played everyone else twice. Dabang Delhi and Bengal Warriors were the top two teams in the league stages and would eventually qualify for the Pro Kabaddi 2019 final as well.
While Dabang Delhi were banking on an enigmatic Naveen Kumar, the youngest PKL player to score more than 300 raid points, to fetch them their maiden title, Bengal Warriors had a master tactician in coach BC Ramesh, who had won the league with Bengaluru Bulls in the previous season.
Dabang Delhi were the favourites at the EKA Arena by Transstadia and they started like one by leading 6-0 early on and solidifying it further to 14-8. However, back-to-back points for Bengal Warriors - which included an all-out as well - saw them level the score at 16-16. The clash remained neck-in-neck for most of the remaining game, before Bengal Warriors beat Dabang Delhi 39-34 with their rock-solid defence.
Season 6 Pro Kabaddi final 2018: Bengaluru Bulls vs Gujarat Fortunegiants
After winning consecutive titles since 2016, Patna Pirates hadn’t featured in the summit clash for the first time in three seasons. Instead, it was Bengaluru Bulls and Gujarat Fortunegiants in the 2018 Pro Kabaddi final.
Pardeep Narwal’s unparalleled dominance, which left everyone in awe in the past few seasons, was starting to mellow down as well. Meanwhile, Bengaluru Bulls’ Pawan Sehrawat picked up the mantle of some prolific scoring. Banking on the youngster’s stupendous form, Bengaluru Bulls topped their zone by quite a margin and after beating Gujarat Fortunegiants in the group stages once, they were favourites to win the title.
However, the momentum didn’t stop Bengaluru Bulls from trailing 9-16 at half-time of the final before they turned up the heat. The Bulls’ second-half saw them executing two all outs and a Super 10 to clinch the title by beating Gujarat Fortunegiants 38-33 in the final.
Season 5 Pro Kabaddi final 2017: Patna Pirates vs Gujarat Fortunegiants
The fifth season of Pro Kabaddi had seen the competition expanding to 12 teams from eight as Gujarat Fortunegiants, UP Yoddha, Haryana Steelers and Tamil Thalaivas were drafted in. It was in this season that the caravan league format was introduced with games in the league stages getting divided into two zones.
Clubbed in Zone B, Patna Pirates had finished second and had to see off Haryana Steelers, Puneri Paltan and Bengal Warriors to reach the final for the third consecutive time. A prolific Pardeep Narwal was at his peak and was coming to the final by scoring most points in a single raid (8) in the Eliminator 2 match against Haryana Steelers.
While Patna Pirates was largely a one-man team, Gujarat Fortunegiants reached the final with a team display. But, Pardeep Narwal was unparalleled that night, scoring an unreal 19 raid points. Though Gujarat Fortunegiants raiders Mahendra Rajput and Rohit Gulia kept picking regular points, the team was no match for Patna Pirates who won 55-38.
Season 4 Pro Kabaddi final 2016: Patna Pirates vs Jaipur Pink Panthers
Patna Pirates became the first PKL side to defend their title in season 4, despite making a slow start to their campaign. Though they had topped their group, four losses in the group stages had fans unconvinced about their ability to recreate the previous season’s magic.
However, it was at this juncture that Pardeep Narwal had started to rise. Though Rahul Chaudhari was the best raider that season, Narwal took the MVP after almost single-handedly delivering Patna Pirates the title.
In the summit clash, Patna Pirates faced Jaipur Pink Panthers, who had developed a reputation for being a giant-killer that season.
However, an unstoppable Pardeep Narwal was hardly bothered by that as he would complete a Super 10 in the second half of the match and end the final with 16 raid points to guide his side to a comfortable 37-39 win.
Season 3 Pro Kabaddi final 2016: U Mumba vs Patna Pirates
PKL season 3 will always be remembered for Patna Pirates’ emergence to halt the domineering run of defending champions U Mumba, who had qualified for the third consecutive Pro Kabaddi final in 2016. There were two editions of Pro Kabaddi League in 2016 - from January to March, and June to July - and Patna Pirates had dominated the entire year.
With a star-studded Mumbai side facing a vibrant Patna Pirates, the match promised thrill and the final scoreline of 31-28 rightly reflected that. After Patna Pirates had established a solid 19-6 lead, U Mumba had come back to level things at 28-28. However, a string of three consecutive points saw the defending champions lose out in the last hurdle.
While PKL season 3’s MVP Rohit Kumar had taken eight raid points in the final match, Sandeep Narwal’s High-5 had wrapped up the task for Patna Pirates.
Season 2 Pro Kabaddi final 2015: U Mumba vs Bengaluru Bulls
After a heartbreaking final match loss in PKL 2014, U Mumba were the favourites in the second season. And they had reached the final for the second consecutive time with Anup Kumar leading the proceedings with 74 raid points (most by any player that season).
However, U Mumba were not to be overconfident this time with Bengaluru Bulls standing in their way even though Anup Kumar’s brilliant captaincy had left little room for error for Mumbai.
Despite having PKL 2’s MVP Manjeet Chhillar on their side, Bengaluru Bulls made a slow start in the final and U Mumba needed just that. A sudden run of three consecutive points in the initial stages led Anup Kumar and Shabeer Bapu to capitalise on the situation.
After Anup Kumar’s super raid to establish a 23-18 lead had helped U Mumba shake off the early jitters, Bengaluru Bulls’ comeback didn’t matter. Even with the score reading 24-24, Shabeer Bapu and Anup Kumar kept raiding consistently to edge out the Bulls 36-30 and lift U Mumba’s first PKL title.
Season 1 Pro Kabaddi final 2014: Jaipur Pink Panthers vs U Mumba
Pro Kabaddi League’s debut season in 2014 had an unassuming Jaipur Pink Panthers rising above all to become the tournament’s first-ever champions. Winning 10 league games to reach the semi-finals, Jaipur had eased past Patna Pirates to set-up a mouth-watering final clash against tournament favourites U Mumba.
U Mumba’s captain and star player of the tournament Anup Kumar, who was adjudged the first MVP (most valuable player) of the league, was in terrific form and Jaipur had little chance for success in the final.
However, in Maninder Singh and Rohit Rana, the Pink Panthers had two big-game players who put up a superb show to stun Mumbai 35 - 24 on the night of the final. Maninder had ended up being the top raider (8 points) as well as the top defender (2 points) in that match.
After seven entertaining seasons of the Pro Kabaddi League, the eighth edition of the tournament had to be cancelled owing to the global pandemic. However, with tournaments like Indian Super League and I-League now getting organized in India inside the bio bubble, kabaddi fans would hope their favourite sport returns in 2021.