In Match 115 of Pro Kabaddi Season 7, league-leaders Dabang Delhi K.C. took on Bengal Warriors in what was a duel between the two best teams of the league stage. The team from the capital were on a six-match unbeaten run and coming into this game off a 60-40 mauling of Puneri Paltan.
Dabang Delhi were the heavy favourites in the duel but led by skipper Maninder Singh, Bengal Warriors outclassed the table-toppers 42-33. However, the victory came at a price and a big one at that.
Maninder, who had breached the 200-point mark for the season in this match, suffered an injury that ruled him out of the remainder of the campaign. The Warriors, though, held the fort in the skipper’s absence and sneaked into the final with a narrow two-point victory over U Mumba in the semi-final, setting up a clash another against Dabang Delhi K.C. in the final.
Bengal Warriors' opportunity of a lifetime
“We all thought Delhi were going to win,” said Maninder in an Instagram live on the Pro Kabaddi handle. “The way they started the game, it was theirs to win.”
Dabang Delhi raced to a 6-0 lead in the final and soon inflicted the game’s first All-Out in just the sixth minute to take an 11-3 lead. At this point, it felt as if the question wasn’t ‘Will Delhi win?’, but rather ‘How many will Delhi win by?’
However, Maninder revealed how the team meeting the morning of the final played a role in Bengal Warriors weathering the storm and forcing a strong comeback.
“In the team meeting, we had a discussion and we basically said to ourselves that today, we have an opportunity. Who knows if we will get this opportunity in Pro Kabaddi ever again? So, we knew that this was our chance to etch our names in the history books. And there was no selfish motive behind it, but rather a team spirit that bound us together,” said Maninder.
Led by stand-in captain Mohammad Nabibakhsh, the Warriors embarked on 14-6 run in the remainder of the first half that saw them go into the break with the scores level at 17-17. With momentum on their side, the Warriors were seemingly the happier of the two teams at the break.
Bengal Warriors' complete team performance
In the absence of Maninder, the onus fell on Nabibakhsh, Sukesh Hegde and K. Prapanjan to negate the skipper’s loss but it was a wildcard -- raider Ravindra Ramesh Kumawat -- that proved to be the difference-maker on the night.
Despite being part of the Bengal Warriors’ roster since Pro Kabaddi Season 4, Kumawat has featured only 20 times for the side, and his appearance in the final was just his fourth of the campaign. Kumawat scored the Warriors’ first three points of the night and his performance in the second half was exactly the sort of impact that the team would have expected from the raider.
“Kumawat has been with us for a few years and is still a young player,” said Maninder. “He hadn’t played much all year, and the final was his first big chance of the year and he delivered.” The raider scored six raid points on the night in just eight raid attempts, while also giving away just one tackle point, playing the role of the impact raider to perfection.
Maninder also credited the team’s stellar defensive trio -- Baldev Singh, Rinku Narwal, Jeeva Kumar – as well as raider Sukesh Hegde for their leadership and play in the final. “They wanted me to pass on instructions from the sidelines, but we had some great and veteran players on the roster. They gave their blood, sweat and tears to the cause and really won it as a team,” said the skipper. “Baldev, Rinku, Jeeva, Sukesh (Hegde), were all outstanding on the day. They really guided us to victory in what was a great day and a great match.”
Hegde scored seven raid points, including the final point of the night that sealed the victory, while the defensive trio managed eight tackle points on the night, limiting the impact of Dabang Delhi K.C.’s stellar offence.
The magnificent team effort helped Bengal Warriors win their maiden Pro Kabaddi title and Maninder’s second after his victory with Jaipur Pink Panthers in Season 1, capping off a magnificent campaign for one of the sport’s best players.
Feature image courtesy: Facebook / @BengalWarriors