Patna Pirates scored an astonishing hat-trick as they won the Pro Kabaddi League for the third consecutive time in two years. While the team wasn't perhaps the most well-balanced team of the league, they played their kabaddi in a way no one else could match up to.
From relying on the same two raiders -- Pardeep Narwal and Monu Goyat -- to not believing in the concept of too many rotations, they made sure they pulled off a big-ticket 17-point win in the final against debutants Gujarat Fortunegiants. But how exactly were they different from the rest? We take a look.
The unstoppable Pardeep Narwal
If there's one name that comes to mind when one thinks of Patna, it's captain Pardeep. And what a run he's had! From scoring a record 34 raid points in one match to completing 369 points in just one season, he's done it all. He was not just Patna's backbone, but over the course of the league, he became PKL's, as the commentators would often call him, 'Mr. Kabaddi'.
Scoring an astounding 19 Super 10s - 10 raid points -- in 26 matches, he was powerful and effortless as a raider. Furthermore, he took the role of a captain very seriously, making sure his team would always fight, irrespective of the situation. His informal, casual approach as captain worked well to form an equation with his young team comprising more upcoming players than seniors.
If there was one team that knew revenge was best served cold, it was Patna. They had never defeated Bengal Warriors in the three times they met in the group stage before the play-offs. However, when they met in the playoffs, the team gave them a masterclass in kabaddi, knocking Warriors out of the league. The final score of 47-44 was misleading as Patna were in complete control after the first five minutes of the match.
It was a case of déjà vu against Gujarat in the final. The two had met twice before, the latter winning both times. Therefore, Gujarat came in as the favourites in the final too. However, Patna turned that notion around comprehensively by never letting go of the lead in the second half.
Pardeep has been a part of Patna since Season 3 -- their breakthrough season -- and has also been a part of all their previous league-winning runs. Arguably, Patna's best decision came even before the tournament when they chose to retain him during the auction instead of any other player who was initially there in the team.
This decision was taken by coach Ram Mehar Singh, a part of the coaching staff of the team in all their title-winning runs. Vishal Mane, who was a part of the Season 2-winning U Mumba team and was appearing in his fourth PKL final, marshalled the defence capably in the big games by using his experiences from previous years. His four final appearances are the most by any player in the history of the league.
Who needs rotations when you can have stability?
While every other team made plenty of rotations in a league that was 13 weeks long and had each team playing 22 matches in the group stage itself, Patna came up with an entirely different plan. Instead of investing their time on a new player in every game, they chose to play their key players like Pardeep, Monu and Mane throughout the 26 matches that they played in the tournament. While rotations happened once in a while, their playing seven essentially remained the same almost throughout. This helped the ones who couldn't perform initially to gain confidence (Jaideep) and the ones who could, perform even better (Vijay).
It takes two to raid
Raiders are to kabaddi what batsmen are to cricket. And Patna, unlike other teams that tried to experiment with the number of raiders, depended on just two raiders essentially. Monu and Pardeep. While Pardeep was the more famed member of the lot, Monu too was in the form of his life. Both provided Patna with quick points in crunch situations to lead them to several victories.
Taking cue from the fact that kabaddi was never meant to be an individual sport, Patna refused to bank on just one raider -- a mistake that teams like Tamil Thalaivas, Telugu Titans and Bengaluru Bulls made -- and focused on nurturing the partnership of Monu and Pardeep throughout the 13 weeks and 26 matches. This resulted in them becoming the only team to have two raiders scoring above 200 points in the season, Pardeep scoring a monumental 369 and Monu getting an invaluable tally of 202.