Five things we learned from the 8th season of Pro Kabaddi

After a season that lasted just over two months, Pro Kabaddi season 8 ended the way it started: with a breakthrough. December 22, 2021: The Tamil Thalaivas and Telugu Titans drew 40-40 in match 2. Fast forward to the final in Bengaluru on February 25, and the Patna Pirates struggled to get close to a record fourth Pro Kabaddi title. But instead, Dabang Delhi KC, runner-up in Season 7, kept his nerves to win his first league. Result: 36-37, in favor of Delhi.

Returning after a two-year hiatus, this season of the professional kabaddi league will always be different – without fans, the constant shadow of covida-19 looming and a departure from the traditional format of a traveling caravan. Here is a summary of the season in which 137 games were played and the coronation for the new champion.

Delhi stopped Patna Juggernaut

The finalists started the match wary of each other – a solid Patna in defensive terms faces a mix of Delhi experience and youth, relying on strikers Naveen Kumar and Vijay Malik. Patna finished the first half with a slim two-point advantage.

Also read: Back to the mat: Pro Kabaddi presses the refresh button

The second half proved richer, and the moment of the match came 11 minutes from the time when Malik, who often saved Delhi in Kumar’s absence due to injuries, made a spectacular super attack (of three points). This was a turning point in which Delhi began to take control of the final thanks to their excellent side striker, who finished the match with 14 points in his name.

Dabang Delhi KC, runners-up in season 7, kept their nerves to win their first league title.
(Mashal Sport)

One of Patna’s key players this season was Mohammadreza Chiyaneh Shadlu. The Iranian all-rounder finished the campaign with more points (89) than any other player in the league. But it was seen that a lot of pressure in the game caught up with him in the final, with mistakes in the defensive game throughout the match. Towards the end, Shadlu took matters into his own hands, making a few quick raids, but by then it was already too late. Tactically, coach Ram Mehar Singh was left without substitutions and could not bring striker Mona Goyata into the mix from the bench. Delhi held on to become champions for the first time.

This Patna team bulldozed its way away from everyone this season, finishing the championship phase at the top of the table with 16 wins and 1 draw, losing a total of just 5 matches. But what is critical, three of those defeats were against Delhi, including one in the most important final.

Big names disappoint

Before the start of the season, much was expected of one player: Pardeep Narwal, a former Patna Pirate striker bought by the UP-based UP Yoddha franchise for 1.65 million at the auction of season 8 in August last year. It also made him the player with the highest bid in the league’s history to date. But the return of just 188 points in 24 matches was disappointing to say the least. By comparison, he finished with 302 points for Patna in 22 games in season 7. Remember: Narwal also holds the current record for the number of points in attack in one season (369) and the most points in attack in league history (1,348).

Yes, Narwal looked leaner and more prepared this term. There were rare and occasional glances deep, a move he still performs with perfection, but this was not the Pardeep Narwal of old times. When a franchise pays big money, you expect your star player to be consistent and lead from scratch. Instead, Surender Gill, UP’s secondary striker, received praise for his performances throughout the season, with a total of 189 attacking points in 23 matches.

Before the start of the season, much was expected of one player: Pardeep Narwal.  But the return of just 188 points in 24 games for his new team, UP Yoddha, was disappointing to say the least.

Before the start of the season, much was expected of one player: Pardeep Narwal. But the return of just 188 points in 24 games for his new team, UP Yoddha, was disappointing to say the least.
(Mashal Sport)

As for the disappointment, the Telugu Titans certainly had a season to forget, with just one win throughout the season. Their favorite player Siddharth Desai’s season was interrupted due to injury. UU Mumba, the often impressive Fazel Atrachali this season looked like a shadow of the old self. While Atrachali excelled in the role of captain – leading U Mumba young strikers Abhishek Singh and V Ajitha – he fought in defense and often had to cross a barrier of pain. This season he managed with only 51 points in the fight compared to 82 in season 7. Rahul Chaudhari (in Pune) and Ajay Thakur (part of the Delhi team) – two experienced league players – had very little time to play on the mat.

Young players stand out

When Salon talked to Naveen Kumar of Delhi before the start of the season, hoping Delhi would banish the demons of their 7th season defeat by the Bengal Warriors in the final and this time go all the way. By the end of the final on February 25, Kumar was left speechless and admitted in an interview after the match that the rush and ecstasy of finally winning the title would keep him awake. The 21-year-old was key to Delhi in the early stages of Season 8, during which he also broke the record for the fastest player to reach 600 points for attack. Despite the injury, due to which he missed about 6-7 matches, Kumar finished the campaign with 207 points.

In the 8th season, 137 games were played and the coronation for the new champion.  Here's a look at some key player stats.

In the 8th season, 137 games were played and the coronation for the new champion. Here’s a look at some key player stats.

The two other most impressive young players to leave a mark in season 8 were all-around Punetian Paltana Aslam Inamdar, 23 and Mohit Goyat, 19. Goyat was named the best new young player of the season for his performances, including a total of 159 attack points and 28 points to fight. Goyat, who hails from Haryana’s Bhiwani district, emerged as a do or die attack specialist in his rookie campaign, scoring 49 points (do or die raid refers to an attack in which the attacker must score a point and cannot throw an empty raid) .

The Iranian left corner won the award for the best defender for the second season in a row. It was not Fazel Atrachali, but Patnin Shadlu, 21. The 89-point money in the match is the second largest in a single campaign and has become a cornerstone of Patnin’s defense this season. While Patna and Shadlu have failed in the final hurdle, the Iranian will be a player to watch out for in the coming seasons.

“Season after season, PKL has witnessed the emergence of new stars and Season 8 was no different,” says Anupam Goswami, CEO, Mashal Sports and League Commissioner, Pro Kabaddi League. Young players such as Aslam Inamdar, Mohit Goyat, Arjun Deshwal, Surender Gill, Sagar (defender, Tamil Thalaivas) captivated the spotlight with their phenomenal performances, which also reiterates that the league has delivered exceptional highlights, expanding the talent base for the national kabaddi team . ”

Mohit Goyat, 19, was named the best new young player of the season for his performances.  Puneri Paltan all-around, seen here in orange and white, scored a total of 159 points for attack and 28 points in combat in season 8.

Mohit Goyat, 19, was named the best new young player of the season for his performances. Puneri Paltan all-around, seen here in orange and white, scored a total of 159 points for attack and 28 points in combat in season 8.
(Mashal Sport)

A promising future for Pune

While Patna was a team to be beaten and Delhi showed that experience and youth can work well together, Puneri Paltan of Anup Kumara showed great signs of improvement as the season progressed. Despite the hardships in the early stages, this young team played fearlessly – spurred on by the versatile capabilities of Inamdar – under captain-led striker Nitin Tomar. For me, it was a pleasure to watch this Pune team.

They were one of six teams to qualify for the playoffs in Season 8, with 12 wins and 9 losses. Compare this to season 7, when they finished in 10th place in the league table, and you can see why Kumar, a former league player and captain of the Indian kabaddi team, is building something special with Pune. The key now will be to maintain momentum and further advance such as Goyat, Inamdar and others.

Kabaddi’s need for player safety

Kabaddi is a contact sport like no other. There is speed and agility, but also brute force and fighting between players. In that sense, it may be time for the sport to start dealing with head injury prevention. When kabaddi players defend, for example, they often go face to face in the showdown. There are many cases where the knee of the fleeing attacker comes into contact with the head or face of the defender.

When kabaddi players defend, for example, they often go face to face in the showdown.

When kabaddi players defend, for example, they often go face to face in the showdown.
(Mashal Sport)

It happened in the second semifinal between the Bengaluru Bulls and Dabang Delhi KC. Bengaluru’s assistant striker Chandran Ranjit hit Joginder Narwal, a Delhi veteran, as he tried to reach the midfield during the attack. The wounded man’s forehead hit Narwal’s face, knocking out the Bengaluru player. While Narwal continued after the facial treatment, Ranjith no longer played in the match.

This was another reminder of the dangers of contact sports. Can the league explore the possibility of introducing protective headgear for players? Many sports – including football and rugby – have adopted protective headgear to mitigate the dangerous effects of head-on collisions. Using a concussion replacement is another option that has been successfully integrated into football. Athlete safety has become one of the most talked about aspects in sports in recent years. Why should kabaddi be different?

Also read: Kabaddi: An Indian sport that has fallen into my heart

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