What are the key elements of a fitting finale? A comeback? New finalists? Unparalleled viewership? Well, the Pro Kabaddi final this season had it all. Bengal Warriors scripted a phenomenal comeback to upset the favourites Dabang Delhi and lift their maiden title despite the absence of their star raider Maninder Singh.
Bengal have come a long way from treading in low waters in the first four seasons of Pro Kabaddi to qualifying for the playoffs in the next three. Ahead of season seven, BC Ramesh, a recipient of Arjuna Award and the coach of ex-champions Bengaluru Bulls came on board and gave the much-needed edge that Bengal seemed to have been missing previously.
What changed for Bengal?
Bengal’s new coach BC Ramesh came in with a promise of delivering a successful campaign and his first order of business was developing a balanced squad with ample resources in offence and defence. The team owners obliged to his philosophy and ended up signing Sukesh Hegde, Jeeva Kumar and the all-rounder from Iran, Mohammed Nabibakhsh.
Bengal had to shell out INR 77.75 lakh, their highest auction bid of the season to secure the services of the Iranian. Although Nabibakhsh started the season strongly with a brilliant 10-point performance against UP Yoddha in the first match of the season, his performances took a hit somewhere down the line.
However, the Iranian proved why he’s worth every penny when the stakes were the highest – in the semi-final and the final. Maninder Singh had to sit out in the knockout matches due to a shoulder injury but the stand-in captain, Nabibakhsh ensured that Bengal never lose their way. In a tryst of fortune, the Iranian delivered a bombastic performance in the final, picking up 10 points and paving the way for a historic comeback for the Warriors. He ended the season with a total of 122 points to his name.
The successful formula of an all-round unit
Maninder Singh has been a consistent performer for the Warriors in the past two seasons. He had marshalled his troops previously and continued on his path in the seventh season as well. Even though he missed the knockout phases of the competition, he was the pivotal figure in Bengal’s offence and ended his season with a whopping total of 205 points, averaging almost 10 raid points per match.
In his pursuit, he was assisted by Sukesh Hegde in the league stage but post the injury to Maninder, Hegde took up the task of securing raid points for his team. The fleet-footed raider racked up a total of 16 points in the semi-final and the final, proving to be an invaluable asset for Bengal.
As far as defensive contributions are concerned, Baldev Singh and Rinku Narwal have been the forerunners in the team. Baldev ended his season with 66 tackle points and occupies the fifth spot for the most tackle points scored in the season, while Rinku ended up just two points shy with 64 tackle points. Rinku proved crucial in containing the offensive strikes of Dabang Delhi in the final and provided the much-needed balance that Bengal’s coach had been aiming for throughout the season.
Bengal’s story has been one of determination and fielding a perfect combination on the mat. With this triumph, the Warriors have showcased that even when you lose your star player, you can still bounce back by having the most credible playing seven on the mat.
Feature image courtesy: Star Sports & Pro Kabaddi