Tough Competitiveness defines season seven of VIVO Pro Kabaddi
As VIVO Pro Kabaddi League enters the final stages of the most competitive and unpredictable season in history, there are no clear favourites for the coveted title. The competitiveness of the ongoing season was highlighted by the fact that teams had to wait till the final leg to find out the six team who will make it to the playoffs. Jaipur Pink Panthers, mid-season table toppers and favourites to seal a playoff berth, lost to Tamil Thalaivas on Monday night, arguably the poorest team this season, once again proving the theory that there are no favourites in the game of Kabaddi.
Six teams – Dabang Delhi KC, Bengal Warriors, Haryana Steelers, UP Yoddha, U Mumba and Bengaluru Bulls – will fight it out amongst themselves for the trophy having already secured the playoff slot. The Delhi and Bengal sides have secured direct qualifications to the semi-final on the virtue of being first and second in the league but UP Yoddha’s form in the second half of the season (11 wins in their last 12 matches) and U Mumba’s defence peaking at the right time means we are in for more surprises in the playoff stage.
When the defence had its say
Despite strong performances from individual raiders such as Naveen Kumar, Pardeep Narwal and Pawan Sehrawat, the defences have had a bigger say in the ongoing season. Teams have opted for aggressive strategies, often playing with an extra defender, to force the raiders into making a risky move or wait it out till the Do-or-Die raids.
At all stages this season, the defenders outdid their numbers from the previous two seasons. At the end of 4 legs, the average tackle points was 20.4 for this season as opposed to 19.7 and 18.1 in season 6 and 5 respectively. The trend continued and at the end of 11 legs, the average tackle points was 20.1 (19.9 in season 6 and 18.4 in season 5).
Five star performances
Top raiders did flourish regardless of the defensive approach with Pardeep Narwal (302), Pawan Sehrawat (295), Naveen Kumar (256), Maninder Singh (205) and Siddharth Desai (202) crossing the 200-point mark. What is staggering is how both Pardeep Narwal and Siddharth Desai racked up these points for teams who failed to qualify for the playoffs which meant they spent more time on the dugouts than their competitors). Pardeep contributed to 68% of Patna Pirates’ raid points this season But unfortunately for the ‘record breaker’, no other raiders managed to secure a Super 10 for Patna in the entire season. Siddharth Desai faced similar problems with backups with all the other Telugu raiders averaging less than 5 points per match.
Not all stars delivered this season with the likes of Rahul Chaudhari, Ajay Thakur and Nitin Tomar struggling to live up to the hype. The ‘showman’ Rahul Chaudhari had his poorest performance in the history of VIVO Pro Kabaddi League with an average raid points of 5.7 (his previous lowest was 6.7 in season 3). He also failed in 28% of his raids – a far cry from his Telugu Titans days where he was nearly unstoppable. Sandeep Dhull (73), Sumit (65), Fazel Atrachali (64), Surjeet Singh (63) and Nitesh Kumar (62) lead the chart for tackle points this season. Just like in the raiding department, two of the defenders in the top five – Sandheep Dhull and Surjeet Singh – secured these personal milestones for teams (Jaipur Pink Panthers and Puneri Paltan respectively) who failed to rally around their superstars to secure a playoff berth.
The future is bright
Perhaps the best defensive performances of the season have come from the UP Yodda team whose corners – Sumit and Nitesh Kumar – both feature in the top five defenders’ list. Sumit, playing his first season of VIVO Pro Kabaddi, has been a calm performer in the left corner for the UP side while Nitesh Kumar has followed his breath-taking 100-point season 6, with another stellar showing in the right corner. The young captain, a product of VIVO Pro Kabaddi’s Future Kabaddi Heroes (FKH) programme, has already secured five High 5s this season, and has been a leader on the mat for the Yoddhas – a glowing testimony to FKH that scouts and promotes young Kabaddi stars across the country.
Naveen Kumar’s run of consecutive Super 10s, Surender Gill’s all-round heroics for UP Yoddha, Saurabh Nandal’s assured performances in the defence for Bengaluru Bulls all highlight how FKH has created a path for future Kabbadi stars to perform in the biggest league for the sport. With season seven entering its most importance phase, the stage is now set for these young guns to rewrite history.
The third-placed team will face sixth-placed side, while the fourth and fifth placed teams will face each other in eliminators which will be held on Monday (October 14). The winners of the eliminators will then face the first and second-placed teams in the semi-finals on Wednesday (October 16). The finals will be held on Saturday (October 19). All the playoff matches and the final will be held at the EKA Arena by TansStadia in Ahmedabad.