Haryana Steelers 43-32 Patna Pirates.
The last time Haryana met Patna in the Pro Kabaddi League, they suffered a thumping 69-30 loss, in a match made famous by Pardeep Narwal's six-point raid. So, when these two teams met for the first time in season 6 on Sunday, fireworks were expected. What marked out that match as one of the marquee fixtures this year was the fact that the two players to star for Patna in that match (and in the season too) -- Narwal and Monu Goyat -- were now on opposite ends after Goyat was snapped up for Rs. 1.51 Cr at the auction by Haryana.
Narwal and Goyat had been key to the Pirates title-winning run, scoring 369 and 202 points respectively to finish first and fourth on the overall points tally. This was supposed to be the big-ticket showdown, where the ex-teammates would clash to determine who actually had the upper hand.
However, that match-up never materialised and the match turned out to be a damp squib.
Captain Goyat was left out of not just the playing seven, but the 12-man team altogether comprising substitutes. And honestly, it wasn't a surprise. Bought for the highest-ever bid in Pro Kabaddi League history, he was supposed to lead the team's raiding line. However, with a relatively slow start amidst all the pressure and hype, Goyat has been able to score 54 points in seven matches.
In contrast, teammates (and captain against Patna) Vikash Khandola, who has scored 69 points in nine matches, and newcomer Naveen, with 48 points in 8 matches, are gaining more prominence and have turned out to be the more valuable raiders for Haryana. This has resulted in Goyat becoming the third-choice raider for the team. Not because of his lack of skills as a raider, but because Khandola's abilities as captain and Naveen's capabilities as an all-rounder are giving the team an added advantage.
Goyat became a household name last season, ably supporting Narwal in Patna's run. His move to Haryana was supposed to be his promotion from being the support raider to the leader, only to go back to square one, at least for now. Goyat got ample time to rise in the shadow of Narwal. In Haryana, he's had to - or rather is expected to - do the exact opposite: make his team shadow him. And that hasn't worked for his otherwise patient, slow and steady raiding methodology. He needs more time, but the team, after nine matches and just three wins, doesn't have that luxury. The moral of the story? Yes, he's got the money but the gain hasn't been much, at least for Haryana.
Patna's problem is the same. They don't have a good support raider any longer, not of Goyat's level. As their current play suggests, it's either a Narwal game or not. Everything has, once again, fallen on him. In the 32 points that the defending champions scored, 14 were scored by Narwal, next came Vijay with seven points - that too mostly out of bonuses. Now if only Goyat was still in the team...
Last year, Patna weren't the best team either, but had a good partnership going between Narwal and Goyat that led them to their third consecutive title win.
This time though, things seem bleak, for both Patna and Goyat, especially since the zones have teams like Bengaluru Bulls and Gujarat Fortunegiants - without even counting the existing table-toppers - who have solid combinations in raiding as well as defence, and can be a real threat to their play-off chances.
One can't really help but wonder, who was better off without whom again, and more importantly, whose loss has been bigger?