After finishing second on the league points table, Bengal Warriors have made it to the semi-finals directly as per the new playoffs format of the tournament. Now, the Maninder Singh-led side would be facing a tricky U Mumba side, who defeated Haryana Steelers to reach the semi-finals on Wednesday.
Why will they win
Skipper Maninder Singh’s exceptional performance and having plenty of options in the raiding department is the biggest positive for the Warriors this season. They had started the tournament on a good note and Maninder has led the side from the front in his debut season as a captain. Unlike many other players who mostly fail to perform well when they are given the responsibility of leading a team, Maninder had an amazing run in the league stage till he got injured during a game against Dabang Delhi towards the end of the league stage. If he is 100% fit, then it will be difficult for the defenders of U Mumba to catch hold of the Bengal skipper during the raids. Maninder also has vast experience behind him and that will certainly matter when they play in the big games.
Another positive thing for the team from Kolkata is their packed raiding unit. They have players like K Prapanjan, Mohammad Nabibakhsh, and Sukesh Hegde to support their skipper and all three of them have done pretty well so far. Maninder is one of the top raiders in the season with 205 points from 20 games while Prapanjan has 99 points from 18. Bengal management will have options with them in raiding which most of the other teams lack apart from Haryana Steelers.
In the defence, Bengal were poor in the last season as none of their senior players were able to put an impressive performance. However, this time around, they have Baldev Singh at the right corner who has shown what he can do to stop the raiders when they are in his zone. His strong back holds have been very effective in the league and BC Ramesh and the Bengal think tank will hope the right corner to be in good touch till October 19. Baldev has 62 tackle points in the season with a very impressive strike rate of 54.86% and he ended the league stage at a joint-sixth place on the table of the top defenders. Bengal are just two steps away from clinching the title and they will have high hopes from both the Singhs.
Why they might not
Bengal’s problem lies in their defence and that too in the cover position. Despite having the experienced Jeeva Kumar with them, the side has struggled and leaked points in the two cover positions. Jeeva is someone who can be played as both right cover and left cover but he has not been that successful. The Kerala defender has failed to put in a performance which is expected from a person with that reputation in Indian kabaddi. Jeeva has only 32 points from 20 matches with a terrible strike rate of less than 37% which clearly shows where the Bengal defence has conceded points against good raiders.
Viraj Vishnu Landge, who plays as a left cover, and all-rounder Mayur Shivtarkar have been terrible this season. Bengal coach Ramesh experimented quite a lot with the two players and nothing have worked out well for the team so far. The cover defenders might be a huge headache for Ramesh and U Mumba or Haryana Steelers whosever qualify for the semi-finals will make a proper plan against Jeeva and other cover defenders to succeed in raiding. Bengal need to sort out the mess before Wednesday as they will not get a second chance to make it to their maiden PKL final. They have an option of playing Mohammad Nabibakhsh in the defence along with Jeeva, Rinku Narwal and Baldev and if Maninder is fit then Prapanjan and Hegde will be the two players to support him in the raiding department.
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