Pardeep Narwal faces same old problems with new team UP Yoddha

UP Yoddha’s Pardeep Narwal showcases his skills against Patna Pirates. PKL

Of the 1169 points that Pardeep Narwal had scored in the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) before this season, all but nine had come for the Patna Pirates. When the Pirates decided to not retain him ahead of the season, debate raged on social media as well among experts about that decision. Hence, when UP Yoddha broke the bank for Pardeep at the auction, bidding an astounding amount of Rs. 1.65 Crores, it didn't surprise most observers. Pardeep's reunion with the Pirates came pretty early as they took on Yoddha on the fourth day of this season. So who came out on top when Pardeep faced the team he had the greatest success with?

Pardeep does all the early running

Just like he used to for the Pirates, Pardeep attempted each of the first five raids for Yoddha and gave them a blistering start as they opened up an impressive 7-3 lead in quick time.

The Pirates defence seemed to be intimidated in the early exchanges as Pardeep picked up a bonus point in each of his first two raids without breaking a sweat.

Pardeep then seemed to play the waiting game as Pirates' top raiders - Sachin and Monu Goyat - got overeager in defence and put in clumsy tackles that Pardeep had no problem in avoiding.

Cover defender Sajin Chandrasekar almost timed his dash perfectly but Pardeep showed remarkable agility and presence of mind to contort his body onto the mat and get his leg over the mid-line.

Chiyaneh and Sachin get on top of Pardeep

After Pardeep's ferocious start with six points from his first five raids, the match could have slipped out of the Pirates' hands quickly.

Pirates' decision to release Pardeep meant that they had a significantly bigger pool to bid from at the auction table and they made good use of that by buying Iran's powerhouse defender Mohammadreza Chiyaneh, the most expensive foreign player at this year's auction, along with Monu, Sachin and the vastly experienced Prashanth Kumar Rai, who's also their captain this season.

Recognising that Pardeep was targeting the right corner and the weaker side of the Pirates' defence, Chiyaneh stepped up in impressive fashion in just his second match in the league as he effected a double thigh hold, a la Fazel Atrachali, on Pardeep to consign Yoddha's best raider to the bench for the first time in the match.

With Yoddha not showing a lot of trust in Shrikant Jadhav, their other main raider, and Surender Gill having a quiet day, Pirates' realised that they needed to attack Pardeep as he had very little support.

With the Pirates playing a higher line of defence, Pardeep could no longer target easy bonus points and had to go for the higher risk touch points. With Pirates having five or lesser players on the mat for large parts, Pardeep seemed to go for an 'all or nothing' approach as just one of his 20 raids on the day was empty.

Under pressure, only six of Pardeep's last 15 raids were successful as Chiyaneh's thigh holds and Sachin's ankle holds got the better of him in multiple Super Tackle situations, which are the scenarios that he generally bosses. The generally calm raider pressed the panic button and even wasted a review while contesting a bonus point decision.

With the Pirates tackling him as many as eight times in his 20 raid attempts, Pardeep spent more than 40 percent of the match time off the court. As a result, Yoddha won by just a solitary point in a match that they were threatening to run away with in the initial stages.

Different team, similar struggles, but Pardeep prevails

After playing a starring role in Pirates' three titles in season 3, 4 and 5, Pardeep continued to score prolifically in season 6 and 7, but the lack of strong support raiders and a powderpuff defence meant that the Pirates failed to qualify for the Playoffs in each of the last two seasons.

It's still early days in season 8 but the lack of raiding support for Pardeep seems to be a concern at Yoddha too. Pardeep scored 12 points in just 20 raids, while the rest of Yoddha's raiders combined to score a paltry eight points in 25 raid attempts. The Pirates' raiders also had a tough day, as they managed just 17 points from as many as 43 raids.

While the Yoddha management has been guilty of not trusting a quality raider like Jadhav enough so far, left corner Sumit Kumar has bailed them out of strife and carried on from where he left off in season 7, when he won the Best New Young Player Award, and his high-five on Saturday ensured that Pardeep was revived enough times to make the decisive impact yet again.