PKL: Record-breaking Pardeep stands between Bengal and maiden final

Qualifier 2: Bengal Warriors vs. Patna Pirates

October 26, 8 pm

The big picture

The Pro Kabaddi League is into its fifth season and one team that has made the playoffs every season is Patna Pirates. The two-time champions will be eyeing their third consecutive final but they will have to get past Zone B toppers Bengal Warriors first.

Pirates qualified for the match after defeating Haryana Steelers and Puneri Paltan in their two previous matches in the playoffs. On the other hand, Warriors lost to Gujarat Fortunegiants in the first qualifier and will now have to face the music against the defending champions.

This is only the second time that the Warriors have reached the playoffs, they had finished fourth in the third season. The two teams met thrice in the group stage, with Warriors winning once and the other two matches being tied.

Form guide (most recent first)

Bengal Warriors: LTWWW

Patna Pirates: WWTLL

In the spotlight

Pardeep Narwal has been demolishing records left, right and centre this season: be it scoring 300 raid points in a single season, scoring the most points ever in a single match (34) or the most points in a single raid (8). The scary part is that he is not yet done. Pardeep has played every single match in a three-month long season, scoring 17 Super 10s in 24 matches for his team. He was in red-hot form against the Steelers and Paltan and will be the linchpin against the Warriors too.

The Warriors' raiding line-up boasts of the powerful Maninder Singh and the agile Jang Kung Lee but it is the quietly efficient Deepak Narwal who will pose the biggest threat to the Pirates defence. Deepak scored 21 points in the two matches he played against the Pirates in the group stage and has been particularly impressive in do-or-die raids. His astuteness sets him apart from most other raiders in what is a predominantly physical sport.

Probable team line-ups

Pirates might stick to the starting seven from their last match, with Pardeep and Monu Goyat being the main raiders and Vijay being the support raider. Jawahar Dagar and Vishal Mane might play as right corner and right cover while Jaideep and Sachin Shingade will most likely start as left corner and left cover respectively.

Warriors might look to make one change to their starting seven from the previous match with Bhupender Singh playing as leftt cover ahead of Young Chang Ko. Maninder, Deepak and Jang will be three main raiders while captain Surjeet Singh (right cover), Ran Singh (left corner) and Shrikant Tewthia (right corner) will man the defence.

Battles to watch out for

Pardeep Narwal vs. Surjeet Singh

Pardeep is the most successful raider this season while Surjeet is second on the list of players with most tackle points. While Surjeet managed to limit Pardeep to seven points the first times these two teams met this year, Pardeep had the upper hand the last two times this two teams met this season. Warriors best chance of victory might lie in keeping Pardeep on the bench for as long as possible and Surjeet will have to play a pivotal role to achieve that target.

Monu Goyat vs. Ran Singh

While Pardeep has been key to Pirates success this year, Goyat's vast reserves of stamina have served the team well. Unlike most other teams that have relied on three raiders or more to get through their matches, Pirates have only used a third raider when both Pardeep and Goyat have been off the court. He generally prefers to target the left corner and Ran's ankle holds will have to be in fine working order if the Services player has to be stopped in this knockout match.

Final word

Both the teams have been the most prolific raiding teams this season -- Pirates are top of the list of teams with most raid points, while Warriors are third. However, the defence has been a cause of concern for both the teams. Pirates have conceded the most points this season while Warriors are tenth on the list of teams with most tackles points. The team that has the higher success rate in defence in this match might well be the one that progresses to the final.