The three-month long Pro Kabaddi League Season 6 will come to an end with a mega clash between Gujarat Fortunegiants and Bengaluru Bulls on Saturday. It is expected to be a close final, but here are five reasons why Gujarat will start as favourites.
Sachin vs. Sehrawat: Consistency is key
Bengaluru's Pawan Kumar Sehrawat has undoubtedly been the star of the season with a jaw-dropping 260 points in 23 matches. On the other hand, there's the very consistent Sachin Tanwar from Gujarat -- with 194 points in 22 matches -- who has continued his good form from his debut season in 2017.
While the numbers are in favour of Sehrawat, Sachin is the more dependable one. Sehrawat's style of raiding, though brilliant, is impulsive and eccentric. Sachin's more calm-headed and calculative style might work better in the final.
This is Gujarat's second straight final, and in both seasons they finished top of the table with the highest number of wins. Last year, they had 15 wins, 4 losses and 3 ties in 22 matches before the play-offs. This year, they bettered that performance with 17 wins, 3 losses and 2 ties. Bengaluru did well too, securing 13 wins, 7 losses and 2 ties, but the points tables show that Gujarat's overall performances have been better.
Stronger starting seven
Never mind the standout performers, it's the team effort that counts in PKL. Raid-machines Pardeep Narwal and Siddharth Desai - the find of the season - gave it their all, but their teams couldn't keep up with them. The same can be said for Deepak Niwas Hooda (Jaipur) and Ajay Thakur (Tamil Thalaivas), whose teams finished low on the table despite their individual brilliance. While this has been Bengaluru's best season, they've been over-reliant on Sehrawat and captain Rohit Kumar. Other than Mahender Singh, the left cover, none of their other defenders have been consistent.
Gujarat, on the other hand, have been an all-round team, with right cover and captain Sunil Kumar leading the charge. Add Parvesh Bhainswal and newcomer Sachin Vittala to the mix and the team has a solid defence. On the raid front, the reliable Sachin and K Prapanjan have consistently contributed to the scorecard. With five proven players among the playing seven, Gujarat seem more likely to have the upper hand.
Gujarat coach Manpreet Singh has been a breath of fresh air in the PKL. In the last two years, as coach of a very new team, he has found success working with a bunch of relative newcomers and very few senior members, driving them to remarkable results. His strategies have been unique, often switching the playing positions in the defence and keeping the opposition guessing by frequently changing his starting seven. He is quick to change to plan B, C and D if Plan A is not working. It won't be surprising if his strategy in the final ends up startling Bengaluru.
Sunil-Parvesh's defensive double act
When these two teams faced each other in Qualifier 1, Bengaluru captain Rohit Kumar doubled up as a defender and ended up scoring a 'High 5', i.e., five tackle points. Gujarat never saw it coming, and suffered a 41-29 loss. This time, their defence will be more prepared - something that could be seen in their win against UP Yoddha on Thursday, where they stopped their resurgent opponents and recorded a seven-point win.
Their main defenders, Sunil and Parvesh, are extremely versatile and can play as both corner and cover, depending on whether the raider is a right raider or a left raider. Having been the support cast to the Iranian duo of Fazel Atrachali and Abozar Mighani in Gujarat's run to the final last year, both of them have led the defence ably this year. What strengthens this claim are the numbers - Bhainswal and Sunil are second and fourth so far on the tackle points table for this season, while the Gujarat team is second on the tackle points tally.