Why Delhi, Bengal, Mumba and Bengaluru will - or won't - win PKL 7

The first day of the Pro Kabaddi League playoffs was not short on action as defending champions Bengaluru Bulls needed extra-time to get past UP Yoddha after both teams were tied at the end of the regulation 40 minutes. U Mumba put up a clinical display to get past Haryana Steelers, whose defenders simply failed to turn up on the big day.

Bengaluru and Mumba now face Dabang Delhi KC and Bengal Warriors in the first and second semi-final respectively.

With the teams in contention now whittled down to just four, we look at the most compelling reasons for these teams to win -- or not win -- the title.

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Dabang Delhi KC

Why they will win?

Prolific raiders led by Naveen Kumar

Even as teenaged prodigy Naveen Kumar has been breaking records in a flurry, Delhi's other raiders have held up their end of the bargain well. Their average raid point tally of 21.91 is the best for any team this season, with Naveen scoring a Super 10 in all but one of the 21 matches he has played this season.

However, they would want Chandran Ranjit to summon his form from earlier in the season as an over-reliance on Naveen started costing them towards the end of the league phase.

Why they won't win?

Ageing defence

Joginder Singh Narwal, Vishal Mane and Ravinder Pahal are aged 37, 34 and 28 respectively and none of them have looked close to their best. While all of them are vastly decorated defenders, Pahal is the only one to have won them games on his own this season.

It is telling that despite finishing top of the points table, their average tackle points tally of 9.27 was only better than wooden-spooners Tamil Thalaivas. With the trio being up against the likes of Pawan Kumar Sehrawat first up, they'll have to summon some vintage form if Delhi are to reach their maiden final.

Bengal Warriors

Why they will win?

Strong bench and depth in raiding and defence

Bengal may have finished second on the points table, but they were the most impressive team in the second half of the league stages. What sets them apart from almost every other team in the competition is the depth in their raiding department.

K Prapanjan was their preferred option as the second raider behind captain consistent Maninder Singh at the start of the season, but when his form tailed off midway through the campaign, they could call upon a raider with the experience and know-how of Sukesh Hegde -- not the kind of luxury that most teams possess.

Their impressive depth can also be gauged from the fact that even a fringe player like all-rounder Sourabh Tanaji Patil, who played just two matches when Maninder was injured, scored a Super 10 in his very first match.

Why they won't win?

Weak covers

Bengal had the best player in the cover position in the business in the form of Surjeet Singh. Having chosen to let go of him before this season, any replacement would have been a downgrade.

They tried to offset that loss by acquiring the vastly experienced Jeeva Kumar, who has performed decently but is well past his prime. Iranian all-rounder Mohammad Nabibakhsh has generally been their best performer in the cover position despite primarily being a raider, and it is a weakness that might come to haunt them at the worst possible stage.

U Mumba

Why they will win?

Captain marvelous Fazel Atrachali and irrepressible Sandeep Narwal

Unlike most other teams in the PKL, Mumba have looked to build their team around solid defenders in the past few seasons. That has paid dividends as they have reached the playoffs for two successive seasons now. They have also had the best captains in the history of the PKL leading them.

They had some of their best seasons when Anup Kumar was their captain and they have been very successful under Atrachali's leadership in the last two seasons.

Easily the best defender in the league's history, Atrachali's threat has been doubled as he has the energetic Sandeep for company in the right corner position this year.

Why they won't win?

Lack of game-changing raiders

Mumba have a lot of sturdy, consistent raiders, led by the understated Abhishek Singh, but what they do not have yet is a vastly-experienced raider who can deliver super raids or super 10s on demand.

Arjun Deshwal's best years are ahead of him, while Abhishek, MS Athul and Rohit Baliyan are raiders who rely mostly on bonus points and are best suited to be second raiders rather than lead raiders.

Bengaluru Bulls

Why they will win?

Pawan Kumar Sehrawat

Like Pardeep Narwal and Patna Pirates at their epoch, Bengaluru are a team that are blasé about their overdependence on their star raider. They, as well as their opponents know they have only one match-winner, but that has not stopped last season's MVP Sehrawat from being the top-scorer again this season with 335 points so far.

There was ample proof of his brilliance in the first eliminator as he notched up 20 points despite being off the mat for almost half the duration of the match as UP's Nitesh Kumar got on top of him with double thigh-holds repeatedly.

However, what Sehrawat does better than almost everyone else is find a way. He simply does not get bogged down and his ability to deliver multi-point raids at will perhaps only matches -- or is bettered by -- PKL GOAT Pardeep.

Why they won't win?

Powder puff defence

Only Puneri Paltan have conceded more points than Bengaluru this season and the primary reason for that has been their leaky defence.

They are second on the average raid points tally thanks to Sehrawat's domineering performances but the primary job of their defence will be to revive Sehrawat as soon as possible whenever he is tackled -- something they have not managed to do consistently so far this season.