Whoever win the final on Saturday, it will be history written in the Pro Kabaddi League at the EKA Arena in Ahmedabad. Both Bengal Warriors and Dabang Delhi have made it to the PKL final for the first time and there is not much to choose between the two sides ahead of the summit clash.
Dabang Delhi and Bengal Warriors were the two most consistent teams in the league phase and they were also the first two teams to make it to the playoffs and into the semifinals as well. Now, with the two teams having made it to the summit clash, there is a lot at stake ahead of the big battle this evening. The expectations are high from both the teams as they are on the verge of writing a new history in the PKL history.
There is not a lot that separates the two teams. Neither the team combination nor the performance in the season and also the past records are almost similar. However, the one big concern for the Kolkata-based franchise will be the availability of their regular skipper Maninder Singh, who is struggling with a shoulder injury and there are no clear updates regarding his availability for the summit clash.
Both Delhi and Bengal had failed to make it to the final after qualifying for the playoffs from Zone A and Zone B respectively in the sixth edition. However, ahead of the seventh season, both the teams took different routes. Bengal changed their coach and Jagdish Kumble was replaced by BC Ramesh, who had won the title with Bengaluru Bulls last year, while Delhi continued with Krishan Kumar Hooda. Even for Bengal, their experienced skipper Surjeet Singh was shown the doors but Delhi maintained their core for the seventh edition. But, the success of both the teams depended on their primary raiders Naveen Kumar and Maninder who represented the same teams in the previous season as well. But, both the teams went into this season with new all-rounders. On one side, Bengal brought in Iranian Mohammad Nabibakhsh for season seven while Delhi, after retaining Meraj Sheykh, made him sit on the bench and it was Vijay who got to play most of the games for Krishan Kumar Hooda.
Maninder was joined with K Prapanjan, Nabibakhsh, and experienced Karnataka raider Sukesh Hegde. The raiding combination did wonders for the Warriors while Chandran Ranjit and Vijay also performed at times for Delhi and that was important in terms of reviving Naveen whenever the youngster was sent off the mat. There is hardly anything that separates the two teams apart from the fact that Bengal have a better set of raiders as compared to Delhi and even in Maninder’s absence, the trio of Hegde, Prapanjan and Nabibakhsh put together a good show in the high-voltage semifinal clash against Mumba’s strong defensive unit.
There is not a lot to pick and choose between the defenders as well. Delhi’s defence is more experienced than Bengal but the performance has been all the same. Delhi will want Joginder Narwal to lead from the front at the left with Ravinder Pahal at the right corner of the defence while Rinku Narwal and Baldev Singh have come together well to form a deadly corner combination for Bengal. However, the major concern is with the cover combination for both Delhi and Bengal as neither Vishal Mane and Anil Kumar have done well for Delhi nor the combination of Jeeva Kumar and Mayur Shivtarkar has worked for the Warriors.
When it comes to the performance of both the teams in the seventh edition then the final will be the third meeting between the two teams with Bengal leading 1-0. The first game of the season ended in an exciting 30-30 tie in the Chennai leg while the team from the City of Joy won the second encounter between the two teams by a margin of 42-33. However, the second meeting was played during the Panchkula leg and by that time, both the teams had made it to the playoffs but that hardly matters and Bengal is the only team which has not lost to Dabang Delhi this season.
If we talk about the overall performance of the two teams in PKL since its inception in 2014, Bengal and Delhi have met on 14 occasions with both the teams winning six matches each while two games have ended in a tie. But as they say, these are all history and what matters is how you perform on the big day.
We might see some amazing raiding performance by Naveen who already has 21 super 10s in the season but his battle against Rinku at Bengal’s left corner will be really exciting to watch. On the other hand, the experienced trio in Delhi defence will want to ensure that Bengal’s raiding combination is unsettled when it matters the most.
Bengal made it to the playoffs for the third consecutive time this year while Delhi did it for the second time in a row. However, after making it to their maiden final, the target for the two teams will be to lay their hands on the coveted silverware at the end of the big battle this evening. This is the contest between the two well-matched teams who did nothing wrong in the season but what holds the importance is how they perform today and that will determine the champion of the league. After getting the better of tough opponents like Bengaluru Bulls and U Mumba in the semis, these two evenly-placed sides are all set for the grand-finale in Ahmedabad.
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